Loving Laundry

I’ve said before in this blog that there is no rhyme or reason to how I choose renovation projects, I just work on what’s annoying me the most. Lately, it has been my laundry room. It’s right off the kitchen so I see it every time I go in or out of the house, not to mention the too many hours spent doing laundry. When we bought the house the washer and drier hookups were in the basement, which is scary. Off the kitchen we had a narrow pantry with old rickety shelves. Next to it was a huge half bath, which was oddly large and had an entrance off the kitchen. We closed off the kitchen entry to the bathroom, made the half bath a normal size with an entrance off the family room and enlarged the pantry to be a big laundry room.  While I loved having the laundry off the kitchen, the room was very unfinished.

I had a Pinterest board of ideas for laundry rooms, but nothing seemed to spur me to action until I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I didn’t enjoy the book, but in my subconscious something must have taken hold because over the past few weeks I have systematically worked my way through every closet and dresser in the house and then attacked the kitchen cabinets.

I purged and then organized what was left, which frankly wasn’t much because I was way more focused on purging than organizing. As every member of my family said at one point, “You’re not giving away MY stuff are you?” (Yes.) The one take away I had from the book is that we hold on to way too much stuff thinking we will have a need for it “someday.” If that someday ever comes, chances are we can’t find the item we need in the mounds of stuff we own and we have to buy a new one anyway. This is the purge of the downstairs buffet which was filled with construction materials which are now in the basement in neatly labeled totes. Now the buffet holds plates, as it was intended to.

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Did I mention I bought a label maker as part of this rehauling of all of our possessions?  Things are now labeled which clearly do not need to be.

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Finally the day came when the entire house had been purged (except the basement, which is too scary to be considered part of the house.) All that was left was the laundry room. This was no insignificant task since the laundry room was the storage area for a ton of construction and paint supplies, not to mention a million hats, gloves, and winter coats. I started by cleaning it out, finishing the baseboards, put up new shelving, and enclosed the washer and drier. This task was made easier by my new circular saw with a laser light. I requested this new saw for Christmas since it is much smaller and lighter than the one I had. I rarely used my old one since I was pretty sure I would lose a limb. The final task was organizing the shelves so I can now see things and I can find what I need. And yes, I labeled things. I also installed useful items like a rack to hang clothes so my husband won’t drape clothes over the kitchen chairs. And then leave them there.

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I have been so happy with my new laundry room that I just stand in the doorway and look in several times a day. Quite a change from when it was the room I avoided most!

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Flowers, flowers, and more flowers.

If you have driven by our house lately you have seen a whole lot of flowers!  We were finally able to have the landscape guy out (Drew Miller, whom I highly recommend) to dig out all of the beds around the house.  At long last, we could plant landscaping.  Since it was so far into summer all the plants were on sale, so I may have gone a little crazy with the shrubs and flowers. 
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Here is what the yard looked like when we bought the house – a real mess.  There was nothing to do except tear everything out, since it seemed to be mainly poison ivy.  We also had to replace all of the concrete walks and the concrete front porch.

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After the beds were dug, the loooong planting process started.  We have the front and sides finished, and are still working on the beds in back.

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I may have gone a little overboard with the flowers this year, but we have a real yard now!  I think I am closing in on a painter to do the exterior paint, so by the end of summer we may have a fairly finished exterior.

The only downside to the landscaping has been that I learned the hard way that digging up poison ivy is not enough.  The oil is still in the soil, even after a year.  I was happily digging away in soil on the north side of the house that used to be full of poison ivy and I got the worst case ever.  Head to toe. I am now avoiding that side of the house because I definitely do not want another case of poison ivy!

Finished! The Upstairs Bathroom

When we bought this house I was pretty confident I could make it livable, but the one and only full bathroom gave me, well…nightmares. It was a 50s monstrosity that looked like it belonged in a horror movie. It was so bad, few people would actually enter it, they just looked on in shock from the hallway. Aside from being a general disaster area, the bathroom had a bad layout and no room for both a shower unit and a freestanding tub.

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After we gutted the bathroom, along with the rest of the house, we knocked out a closet to expand the bathroom and make room for two sinks, along with a shower and tub. I found a vintage looking tile for the floor, and in doing so discovered the joy ride that is black grout. I thought about doing a vanity with two sinks, but I really wanted the bathroom to look like it could have when the house was nice. Plus, I love the look of furniture in an old bathroom, instead of a modern vanity. Luckily, at the Wood Shack I found a small dresser that fit perfectly. The shelf above the tub and the wood with the hooks for the towels are also from the Wood Shack.

I showed my husband the “after” pictures and said, “Now, if you saw these pictures, wouldn’t you want to live in this house?” “Sure,” he said, “until you told me it was the ONLY finished room in the house.” Sigh…..

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The kitchen!!

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They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and I have recently come to realize that a house definitely does not feel like a home without a kitchen. This past week my kitchen cabinets were installed! After pricing kitchen cabinets at the big box stores, a friend told me to visit her Amish custom cabinet maker. When I told her there was no way we could afford custom cabinets, she assured me they would cost less than the big box stores and be better quality.

So out to Grabill I drove to meet with John, the owner of JM Woodworking. His shop is amazing, if you love to see cabinets being made like I do. John not only helped with design, but his prices were thousands less. I really wanted a big hood and never thought I would be able to afford one, but John was able to give me the hood, along with a gorgeous island that has a built in bookshelf at the end. We met three times to work on design and paint colors and I had a ball! John has great ideas and he had seen the house so he understood the age of the house and the look we were going for. I wanted the cabinets to look as though they could have been original, had people actually had kitchen cabinets in 1860! Custom cabinets mean everything is made to fit perfectly in the space, without using filler pieces or having to compromise on cabinet sizes.

With all the snow, the installation of the cabinets was delayed, but now they are finally here and the house is starting to look like a place where people could live! My favorite part may be how tall my upper cabinets are, with an extra glass-doored unit at the top. This was John’s idea, since we have 10 foot ceilings and a normal cabinet would look tiny on walls that tall. My island is a contrasting black, with the cabinets a just off-white. The countertops have arrived at Menards – we are doing solid wood countertops, very much like what may have been in the original kitchen.

What’s strange is that with the cabinets installed the kitchen actually looks bigger than it did when it was empty. We flipped the kitchen with the dining room, and we have a pretty large kitchen, especially for an old house. Now that the kitchen is in, a bathroom sure would be nice….

Kitchen Floors

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The kitchen in our house was originally in the back of the house, with a room next to it that I imagine was used for a dining room.  However, when I went to lay out the kitchen plan in the existing space, I found that there was no way to put a kitchen in the space when it had the back door, pantry door, and basement door in it.  So, we flipped the spaces and put the kitchen in what was the dining room.  Since we were running all new plumbing and electric, this wasn’t that big of a deal. 

There was a step up to a new subfloor in the old kitchen which we had to pull out when we knocked out the wall between the kitchen and dining room.  When we pulled up the subfloor we found it had been installed to cover up a big sag in the floor.  A bunch of Amish guys and I trudged into the basement holding our cell phone flashlights in front of us to find out why the floor was sagging.  Hello, rotted floor joists.  We replaced the floor joists, but some of the sag remained, along with a hump where the pantry starts.  A few gallons of floor leveler fixed most, but not all of the problem.  I had wanted to lay tile in the kitchen/dining area but I really worried about the tile cracking because the floor wasn’t totally level.  Sheet vinyl flooring is the answer for old floors but I couldn’t find a pattern I liked. 

Soft wood, like pine, is very forgiving of uneven floors, and when the house was built in 1860 it is likely that 6 inch pine floors would have been used in the kitchen.  Whatever the original floor was, it is long gone, so off to Lumber Liquidators I went to order new wood floors.  Their unfinished pine was on sale for 89 cents a square foot, which can’t be beat.  Mark and I laid the floors, which took about a day and a half for the kitchen, dining area and large pantry/laundry room.  IMG_4646

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IMG_4648Then I filled all the knots and cracks with wood filler and sanded the floor with my hand sander.

Pine doesn’t like to take stain and while it is a very light yellow when it is new, over the years it will darken as it ages.IMG_4649That’s great, but I didn’t have years for the floor to look good and a bright new wood floor looked really out of place.  For years I have wanted to do a large checkerboard floor in a kitchen so I decided this was my chance!  First I whitewashed the floor using half water and half of the light cream paint we used on the walls.  This was time consuming as I put the paint down with a roller and then had to go over it with a paintbrush.  After the floor was dry I started taping off my squares.  IMG_20140104_153106_327
I cut 26 inch squares out of floor paper and laid them out and taped around them.  For the three spaces this took approximately forever.  Then it was onto the painting using half black paint and half water. 

Today I drove through Snowpocalypse to finish painting the floor in the pantry and to take up all of the tape.  All in all, I thing the floor turned out pretty well!  My cabinets are off white and my island is black so when everything is in, I think the floor will look pretty cool.  IMG_20140105_125300_373

I still have to put a few coats of poly on the floor which I will do next weekend. 

   The huge amounts of snow we are getting definitely improve the look of the house as it hides all of the construction debris all over the yard! IMG_20140105_130547_955

The Saga of the Porch Columns…..

When you are renovating a house right on Main Street in a small town, it will generate a lot of interest. A LOT of interest. I love this, because renovating a house is very stressful and tons of work, so it’s nice to feel like people are cheering you along. Sometimes the interest is from someone who wants to work on the house. Back in the late summer, when we were having the concrete on the porch done, my concrete contractor gave me the name of a local woodworker who said he was interested in working on the house. I gave him a call, specifically about the columns on the front porch.

The front porch, and those huge columns, were one of the things I liked the most about the house when we bought it. Unfortunately though, when we bought the house, one of the columns on the front porch was missing (see picture above). Judging from the rotted wood on the porch, the column had been too damaged and was removed. I held out hope that we might find the column in the basement or the garage, but it was not to be. I looked into replacing the columns, but they don’t make them that wide anymore. The thought of replacing those big columns with skinny new columns was not all that appealing.

The sunporch had a half column at each corner so I came up with the idea that when we tore out the sunporch to re-do the foundation and windows, we could take the two half columns and make them into one column to replace the missing one. The remaining columns also had rotted wood at their bases and some other damaged areas and I wanted to repair those to make them structurally sound. Let’s just say my contractor was not excited about that idea. So when I got the name of a woodworker, I was hopeful that he might be able to save my columns. Alex came out and took all my columns with him, since they had already been removed from the porch for the concrete work, and returned my old rotted columns, with renovated sturdy columns! He also gave me these great pictures of the work he did. After seeing all he had to do, I can see why my contractor didn’t want to take this job on…..

Here is what the porch looked like without columns….not good.
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When my contractor took out the posts we were surprised to find that unlike today’s columns, which are decorative and have a support post up the middle, these columns were structural and were supporting the entire weight of the porch. That was a little scary since they had so much rot at the bottom. In this picture you can see how the columns were assembled.
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Now the two halves have been joined together to make my new column!
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This shows how rotted the base of the columns were. Alex had to recreate these pieces to make our columns sound. Although they were built to support the weight of the porch, because they had been repaired we decided to run a support post up the middle of the columns. I don’t want to hear a crashing sound in the night and discover the porch has fallen off!
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Aaaah, the columns are back! Next spring I will sand them down and repaint them. Alex raised the bases so rain water will flow under them and not rot out the bottoms again. These columns would be nearly impossible to recreate so I am happy we were able to save them.
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The search for the perfect paint color…..

I have been reminded by a few people that I have been negligent in my blogging duties, but I have been BUSY!  In addition to the regular duties of being a mom and working full time, I have been traveling a lot for work and had to finish up a statistics class.  Statistics does not come easy to me so the final involved much studying and panicking. 

Plus, the house is at a fairly non-interesting stage.  We did have some excitement when the pillars were put back on the front porch, but the past few weeks have just involved mudding and sanding drywall.  Unfortunately, all that work doesn’t really look any different from the way the drywall looked when it went up.  However, the drywall downstairs, and on most of the second floor, is ready to paint so last weekend and this weekend were spent painting.  Most of the finished walls now have a coat of white primer on them.

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Here are the master bedroom (currently housing the bathtub for the hall bath) and the master bedroom bath with the new door leading out to the porch roof. I can tell you that rooms with 10 foot ceilings are a bear to paint. 

 
For the color in the living room I went with Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore, voted the best paint color by several blogs whose names I cannot remember.  These blogs claimed it was the best neutral ever and it matches everything.  After looking at a zillion little paint samples, I  decided real professional decorators probably know far more about picking paint colors than non-profit administrators.  I discovered that you can buy Benjamin Moore paint at the Connelly’s Do It Best on Dupont where there is never a line at the paint counter and they put all of your info in the computer so you don’t even need to remember your paint color when you come in for more!  Amazing.  Clearly created for people like me who can never remember what paint colors they chose. 
 
When I was waiting for the paint to mix, the woman working at the paint counter asked me about my project.  As soon as I told her I was renovating an old house on Main Street in Churubusco, she said, “The big house with the pillars and wrap around porch?  I love that house!”  Turns put she drives through Churubusco regularly and has been watching the progress of the renovation.   She told me that years ago she gave a ride home to a  woman who lived in the house and she was dying to ask her if she could come inside and look around.  Another name to add to the invite list for the open house….       
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After two straight days of painting and climbing up and down scaffolding, every muscle in my body hurts. Every. Single. One.  I am covered head to toe in primer and Revere Pewter.  On the plus side, I match everything now. 

We have walls!

IMG_4400 I was in Chicago all last week and could not WAIT to see the house with drywall on the walls! I was not disappointed – in one week the house has gone from looking like a disaster to looking like a real house! Even James was amazed and said, “This house is beautiful!”. Which is a long way from the early days when he refused to even go in the house because it was, “yucky and stinky”.

The gas and water have been turned on so we can run the heat for the drywall mud to dry. Unfortunately, drywall goes up in a few days, but the mudding and sanding are where the real time is spent. This gives me time to get my paint colors picked out, so I am all ready to paint when the drywall is finished. Next weekend is our family Thanksgiving, and my children who live out of town will be home, so I will get my daughter Hope to help me with paint colors. I made this offer to my oldest daughter too and got a lukewarm response. If she didn’t look just like me I might think she had been switched at birth, because what could be more fun than choosing paint colors??

Here is the same section of wall before, during and after:

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One of the biggest surprises that came with the drywall is that when the morning sun comes in the kitchen window, the old stained glass makes a beautiful pattern on the walls. You can’t tell in this picture, but the light makes rainbows on the wall – amazing.
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