Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guest bedroom--the belated reveal

We completed nearly all the work on our guest bedroom last summer, but I didn't want to give you the full reveal until I hung some pictures and completed the quilt--and I really dragged my feet on completing those details.  So, at long last, our guest bedroom:

The painting over the bed is an old oil of my parents' house.  It was built in 1906.  My great-grandparents bought the house in 1930, and lived there until their deaths in the early 80s.  My parents then bought the house, spent a few years making necessary repairs and upgrades (energy efficient windows, installing insulation, modernizing kitchens and baths, etc.), and we moved in when I was four.

As an aside, P and I are so happy with the quality of pictures I can coax out of the new camera.  Playing with the white balance and using a really low shutter speed has yielded some lovely results here!

Now the remaining problems are definitely the photographer's (i.e., my) fault--like the feeling that the house is not really level:

The decor in this room is rather more traditional than we're planning for the remainder of the house--we decided this was the perfect place to use some special family heirlooms.

We found this pieced, unfinished quilt top among my grandmother's things after she died.  We don't know who made it or when.  My grandmother's younger sister was an avid quilter, and our best guest is that this is a project the two of them worked on together during a visit.  (Since the two of them lived 3,000 miles apart, visits were infrequent, and when they did occur, quite long.  That side of my family is fairly reserved: they bond not by chatting, but by quietly working side-by-side.)  But the fabrics used in the quilt puzzled me a little--they are an odd mix, with fabric types that are not ideal for quilting.  After long study, I finally realized--they are scraps cut from old men's shirts!  And my, they do look like the types of shirts my grandfather favored!

The quilt top was in rough shape-frayed and off-square at the edges, a few holes in the middle where the old shirt fabric had simply given way, and a variety of stains from long storage.  But it's imagined heritage is still special enough for me to be determined to preserve it.  I'm hoping it exudes shabby chic, and not just shabby.  I sewed on a double border to make it large enough for a queen bed, and quilted it.  It won't stand up to use, even infrequent use in our guest room, forever, but I prefer for an object like this to be used and admired than kept properly boxed and preserved in a closet where no one will see it.

But there is an exception that proves every rule, isn't there?

This quilt square was made by my great-great grandmother.  The aforementioned great-aunt had an entire quilt top of these squares.  Several years ago, she cut apart the squares, and sent one to each of her children, nieces, and nephews--including my father.  My parents had it properly framed--acid-free paper, UV-shielding glass--and gave it to me as a wedding gift.  It awes me--I've never even seen a photo of my great-great-grandmother, I know almost nothing about her, but here is this piece of her in my house.

Here are the pictures to the side of the bed:

The middle one is a print that P's mother commissioned several years ago, of their house.  They built it when P was a toddler.  Much of the building was done by P's father and grandfather.

I thought it would be fun to frame a few photos of our families that showed the houses--but for all the years we lived in those places, it was surprisingly difficult to find photos where both people and houses looked good.

To the left, we have P (left) and his brother:

And this is my grandmother, holding my baby father:

I hope the room tour was worth the long wait!  It's certainly come a long way since we had guests in the spring, hasn't it?  Which is to say, family, it's safe to come back now!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Talkin' 'bout my generation

P and I usually feel like we don't fit well into generational descriptions.  Perhaps that's because we bridge most classification schemes.  P is in the last years of Gen X, and no one can agree on where I fit in.  (Most precise classifications place me as the final year of Gen X, but some schemes put me as the oldest of Gen Y).  So we're generally lumped in with people who are either significantly older or significantly younger than us, and don't feel like we're clicking too well.

Which made me all the more excited when I saw this article from entitled "No McMansions for Millennials."  Generally when we drive past a new subdivision filled with McMansions, I turn to P and say, "Please let's not ever live there.  And he agrees, because he's learned that that's the easiest way to deal with me when I demand assurances about ridiculous, unrealistic hypotheticals.  All that is to say, I immediately clicked the link.

And for once, I felt like someone was describing us.  Apparently Gen Y is all about living in cities--okay, not us so much--but yes, we're totally willing to (and did) pay more for a location that will minimize our commuting time.  Apparently Gen Y'ers love to walk places.  7% walk to work. 

P and I mourn the days when it was easier for us to walk than drive.  I still bike to work in warmer weather (and when there's enough daylight).  A lot of my older colleagues look at me carrying my helmet, and (once they get over their shock) say, "I wish I lived close enough to bike to work!"  I never know how to politely respond to this comment, because I'm thinking to myself, "Well, why don't you, then?"

I also got a chuckled out of this line from the article: "Smaller rooms and fewer cavernous hallways to get everywhere, a bigger shower stall and skip the tub, he said."   P has been begging for months to tear out at least on of our bathtubs and put in a really nice walk-in shower.  I always say, "But what about resale?  Isn't a bathtub an aspirational item, if not a practical one?  Doesn't everyone dream of one day having enough time to soak in a tub?  And isn't home buying as much about aspiration as the daily realities of actual life?"

The article didn't put it in so many words, but it seems that Gen Y might be less about the dream, and more about adding a little elegance to everyday life.  So we never have time for a nice soak but we shower daily?  Have a nice shower, then.  How often do we have people over?  Right, and when we do, they're always friends who we don't need to impress.  Why would we spend money on a formal dining room and the furniture to fill it?  But a patio and a grill, yes!

Here's to adding a bit of class to daily life, and abandoning the dream!  After all, it just makes us feel guilty that we're not living up to it.  And we weren't the ones dreaming it anyway.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New bathroom light

Remember our unfortunate bathroom light fixture situation?  You know, where the light fixture blocked our medicine cabinet from opening?

I was just ignoring the situation and pretending that I didn't have (and didn't need) a medicine cabinet.  If I had time to kill at Home Depot or Lowe's, I would browse the lighting selection.  That only proved to me that I think pretty much every bathroom light out there is somewhere on the scale of bland to ugly.

Until I opened One King's Lane this morning to check their daily sales, that is.  And saw this beauty:

 It should arrive on my doorstep in a few weeks.  And hopefully I won't be making a habit of replacing things I've already replaced once in the house.

If you're looking for a light fixture, they've got a number of winners up right now--it was a hard decision!  A lot of these will work if you're like us and have an older house that you don't want to scream "I was built in 1954 but remodelled in 2011!" 

Check these out:

All images courtesy One Kings Lane, Hudson Valley and Sonneman lighting

Monday, January 17, 2011

New toy

P got me this for Christmas:

I've loved my old Canon Elph.  I love how it just slips in the back pocket of my jeans or adds no extra weight to my purse, and it took some stunning landscape pictures on our acation this summer. 

What it didn't do so well was indoor pictures--the flash was garish, and without the flash pictures turn out blurry.  Well, at least candid shots of baby nephews, who are always a whirl of motion--even when sitting still. 

While the nephews were the main impetus for the new purchase, I'm definitely going to have fun taking house pictures with this thing.  Hopefully you'll enjoy the results!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The ghost of the hall bath's future

Back in December, I showed you some pictures of all the work we had done so far on the hall bath.  (Okay, it didn't seem like that much, but trust me--it was one of those projects where every step took 5 times long than you imagined it could.)

There's still a lot we'd like to do in this space, though--let me give you a tour.

First, it needs a new paint color:

I love this paint color (Benjamin Moore Hint of Mint--just a little greener in real life). Unfortunately, it doesn't love me back--it gives my skin an unflattering greenish cast in the mirror.  I knew this would happen when I painted the room, but I always conceived of this room as a powder room/guest bathroom.  I agonized over the paint color in the master bath, since that's where I figured I would spend most of my time.

And almost as soon as the paint dried I got a job, and started getting up earlier than P, and moved all of my things into the hall bath so he could sleep later in the mornings.  Oops.

So new paint it is.  I'm considering going back to my first idea for this room, and painting it a rich, dark blue for drama.  Since only about 1/4 of the walls will be painted--the rest is all tile or doors--I'm not afraid of going with a really dark color.  Plus I figure there's no point in listening to the conventional advice of dark colors making rooms look smaller and darker.  This is a tiny bathroom with no windows, and no paint color is going to fool anyone into thinking otherwise.

Next to go: the vanity.

It actually could look pretty trendy with a coat of paint: Hollywood Regency, anyone?

But we're not Hollywood Regency people.  Plus, the particleboard has seen better days, and paint isn't going to fix that:

(Trust me, it looks worse in person.)

We're thinking of replacing it with a nice, pedestal sink.  Seems like a good fit for a tiny room, and it's a really classic look, in a really durable material--should be a good long-term investment for the house.  It's also much more period-appropriate for a 50s ranch than the current vanity.  Something like this:

(But cheaper.  Just an example.)

Then, let's complete our push toward 50s appropriate, classic style, and durable materials by replacing the floor:

The vinyl here is actually in pretty good shape.  But I hate it.  We're thinking some white or black and white 50s-esque tile--basketweave, hex, etc. 

Like this:

or this:

We'll see if the floor ever gets done.  The big hurdle is that the wall tile is installed over the current vinyl floor.  Ideally, we would need to remove the vinyl before laying the new floor, but it may not be possible to do that without gutting the walls.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Goals

Though we got a whole lot done last year, it's just the tip of the iceberg for what we have planned for this house!  We're (or at least I'm) hoping we can get the bulk of the interior work done in 2011. 

Here's what I'm hoping for this year:

Guest Bedroom

  • hang pictures
  • reupholster antique chair
  • install closet doors
  • fix hinge-bound door so it will actually close


  • make and hang curtains
  • reupholster footstool
  • put laminate on top of craft table
  • paint and hang door

Hall Bath
  • skim coat walls a little more
  • repaint walls
  • really, really scrub grout--and if that doesn't remove yellowing, try one of those grout pens
  • hang at least one picture/piece of art
  • install closet door knob
  • install hooks where I can hang my work clothes 

Hall/Living Room/Kitchen/Dining Room
  • knock down walls to make these all a single space
  • install structural beam to replace structural wall
  • move electrical breaker box to exterior wall so we can knock down the interior wall it's currently on
  • patch existing oak flooring where walls were removed
  • make new attic hatch
  • replace textured ceiling in kitchen
  • remove wood panelling and replace with drywall
  • remove vinyl floor in kitchen, and lay new hardwoods there and over exposed subfloor in dining room
  • commit to new kitchen plans
  • build new kitchen cabinets (at least the lower ones)
  • get/make new countertops
  • install backsplash
  • run plumbing for new sink and gas range
  • remove windows in dining room, and replace with french doors out to backyard
  • buy fireplace screen and make the occasional fire
  • replace hearth tile
  • make living room curtains (purely ornamental)
  • figure out window treatment for front windows that will maximize both light and privacy (plantation shutters?)
  • install new baseboard and crown molding
  • install doors on coat closet
  • fix draft under front door

Utility room
  • build utility room
  • buy and install new tankless water heater
  • run plumbing and install utility sink
Master bedroom
  • lay hardwood flooring over exposed subfloor
Master Bath

  •  give ugly medicine cabinet a cosmetic face lift

  Crawl Space 
  • complete encapsulation
  • test house for radon
  • enjoy running lots of plumbing for new kitchen in new, dry, clean space


  •  fix roof leaks
  • continue to work to make this a functional wood shop for P (so he can spend lots of time out there building me new kitchen cabinets!)

  • paint foundation to complement new stair color
  • figure out how to make exterior brick look good after we cut into it to install afore-mentioned french doors
  • paint front door a more lively color (it should be easy to beat white)
  • work with P's brother A, a professional landscape designer, to come up with an actual design for our landscape
  • remove a few more azaleas
  • add more plants and beds to continue moving toward cottage garden look
  • grow a tomato that doesn't rot before it ripens
  • try to agree on privacy plantings for west property line, and plant them so they have some time to grow
Wow!  We'll see how this goes.  Maybe we'll all get together a year from now and laugh at my hubris.  We'll see....

Monday, January 10, 2011

2010 Year in Review: the long version

In the middle of December, I started freaking out or getting tired of the amount of time and energy P was spending in the crawl space or getting antsy to hold a paint brush again or something, and started complaining that we had barely made any progress on the long list of projects we needed to do on our house.

Then we spent Christmas with the folks, and P discovered an envelope of pictures we had sent his mom when we put a bid in on the place.  My, it was nearly unrecognizable!  (Well, not quite--not nearly so much as it will be when we're finally done with the place.  :-) )  It served as an excellent reminder of how much we really have accomplished this year.

Especially considering that for us, the year had only nine months: we closed on our house March 31.

So, without further delay, what you've all been waiting for:  the pictures!

Guest Bedroom

  • removed carpet
  • refinished flooring
  • repaired drywall
  • painted ceiling, trim, walls, and door
  • replaced door knob
  • removed sliding closet doors
  • installed new baseboard and quarter-round
  • hung curtains


  •  removed carpet
  • refinished flooring
  • repaired drywall
  • painted ceiling, trim, and walls
  • removed sliding closet doors
  • installed new baseboard and quarter-round



  • removed doors to dining room and living room to open up floor plan
  • removed carpet
  • refinished flooring
  • stripped wallpaper
  • skim coated drywall
  • painted ceiling, trim, walls, and doors
  • replaced door knobs
  • butchered newly painted attic hatch
  • installed new baseboard and quarter-round
  • installed new closet shelving

Hall Bath


  • stripped wallpaper
  • replaced light fixture
  • replaced exhaust fan
  • replaced toiled
  • skim coated
  • painted ceiling, trim, walls, and doors
  • replaced door knobs
  • installed closet shelving

Living Room


  • removed carpet
  • refinished floors
  • knocked hole in the wall with floor buffer
  • filled it with boxes and used it as a storage locker

Yeah, not nearly ready to go there yet.



  • bought refrigerator
  • bought washer and dryer
  • painted countertops
  • painted panelling, walls, and trim

Dining Room


  • removed carpet
  • refinished existing hardwoods in half of room, lived on subfloor in other half
  • painted panelling, trim, and built-ins
  • removed coal stove
  • removed stove pipe
  • installed chimney balloon

Master Bedroom


  • removed carpet
  • lived on subfloor
  • removed TV shelf
  • patched drywall
  • painted walls
  • painted faux headboard
  • hung curtains
  • hung vacation photos
  • reupholstered thrift store chair 
 Master Bath


  • threw away icky carpet remnant
  • discovered water damage to floor
  • stomped through floor
  • repaired rotting subfloor
  • hung new drywall and ceiling in closet
  • laid new laminate flooring
  • painted ceiling and walls
  • hung shelves in closet
  • spray painted yellowing fan
  • hung NYC map poster

not very photogenic.  P spent a good bit of time up there laying down planking so he could work on wiring, etc., without worrying about falling through the ceiling

Crawl Space
 P will have creepy crawly pictures for you at some later date.  But he's been busy down there.
  • removed a surprising amount of random junk that every tradesman who's been in there since 1975 must have contributed to
  • repaired some leaking plumbing
  • encapsulated 1/3 of crawl space
  • removed old shelving
  • started organizing space to work for us
  • removed wheelchair ramp to side entrance, uncovering existing stairs
  • removed dead azaleas (and some live ones)
  • planted new plants
  • had good herb garden and a bumper crop of sweet peppers
  • painted stairs
  • replaced furnace
  • planted chaste tree to shade A/C unit, and swamp magnolia just for fun
  • installed new mailbox
  • created new planting beds around mailbox and furnace/A/C unit

What a (9 month) year!  Next time: our 2011 to-do list!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Year in Review: Cliff Notes Version

I need to write up a formal 2010 Year in Review post.

But until I get that done, here's the Cliff Notes version:

P finally replaced our ShopVac bag last night.  We think we went through one bag in April when we were refinishing the floors, and everything we destructed since then went into this bag.

Final tally?  Over 17 pounds of dust and spackle and chimney gunk and other junk.  That pretty much sums up our year.

(Yes, we're the kind of crazy people who carry the bathroom scale outside to weigh the vacuum bag.)

We're definitely going to best that in 2011.  ;-)