Wednesday, October 14, 2009


A warning: This is an honest portrayal of the condition of the three main level living areas we are going to be restoring this year. You may see some disturbing images. You'll cringe for sure, and be thankful you don't live in such a dwelling.

So I ask, try to see it how I do (on good days). The floors are refinished. The trim is stripped. The walls are painted and the ceilings are deglitterpopcornified (I totally made up a new word there--think it will catch on?).

Our house has three things going for it that make it work for the kind of total restoration we plan to do. The first is its size. At 1100 square feet, projects are never more than we can handle (or at least don't appear that way until we've gone too far to go back). In this picture, I am standing in the northwest corner of the house, and you can see the door on the south side of the house in the upper right. It's only about 26 feet long.

The second is its condition. It's livable, but at the same time, because no real work has been done to it for so long, I never feel guilty about replacing something or redoing someone else's work.

The third is also related to its condition. Even in its 101 years, its owners have seen the value in some key old house features. It had seven original light fixtures when we bought it. The beveled glass front door, though in need of some help, is intact.
All of the original window and door hardware is still here.
Even the hardwood floors have never been refinished, though they sat hidden under linoleum and carpet for over sixty years.

Kevin and I had always intended to do a lot of the work ourselves on the house, but we always thought we'd be open to hiring things out as well. The more we do ourselves, however, the more connected we become to the house and its quirks. And the less we trust others to complete the job to our standards. At this point, it's almost a challenge to me to see what we can do ourselves. I love looking at the pieces of the house that we've restored and knowing the effort and value we take in the work has paid off in some beautiful way.
Our latest project is a catastrophic undertaking, especially for two people who have been on a one-wall kick for some time. We plan to restore the trim back to a natural wood finish in the foyer, living room, dining room and hallway.

Here are two half-hearted attempts (I said I'd be honest), really more tool experimentation than anything else. We have completed a whole room upstairs already, so this isn't a new skill for us.

While the trim is off, we are going to take down the ceilings. They are already all drywall, but the job was done rather poorly, and they are popcorn and glittery and gross. So we are going to knock them out and reinstall drywall the right way this time. Then we're going to tackle the walls. Cracks will be repaired (Kevin's specialty) and I'm going to do a test to see how hard sanding off the texture will be. Then everything is going to be painted. NOT WHITE. This house has been too white for too long. It is aching for color. I can feel it.

While I'm doing a lot of the finish work on the trim, Kevin is going to be building new corner cabinets. The originals met their demise back in the fifties by the looks of it, and their replacements are ugly and weird. It's like someone poured mustard on them.

Finally, we will refinish the floors. This might be the one thing we hire out (but I doubt it considering our history on these things).

Like I said, a huge undertaking, and I know, like everything else it will take longer than we plan. You'd think we would get better at time estimation, but the thing is, deep down, I like to grossly underestimate the time it takes us to finish a project.

Although it does drive Kevin crazy.

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