Monday, December 27, 2010

Detective Work

If you live in an old house, then being a detective should come as second nature. Case in point, my kitchen:

Obviously, the florescent light fixtures are not original, but I didn't get a chance to really investigate until I had to change some bulbs. I thought I might find the original light fixture location underneath all, and I did:

After some scraping with a screwdriver (and making a huge mess in the process), I found that the original wiring is still there. I had assumed that the kitchen (which was altered heavily in the 1970s) originally had a single fixture, and now I know I was right.

Also, this got me thinking that the butler's pantry, which is now open to the kitchen, was probably at one time its own separate room, as most usually are. Also of interest here is the original ceiling finish, which is much rougher than what is there now (outside of the fixture.) There's also a strange bread cabinet built into the wall (which everyone kept calling a dumbwaiter, which it never was). I found out from an old photo from the previous owner there was once a window where the cabinet is now, so it would be nice to put the window back later.

Last but not least is this strange medallion in the very center of the floor of my dining room, which I found after I pulled up the carpet. Anyone know what it is? My guess is a wire ran through the holes in the center for a servant call button, which I have seen in other older homes. Any other guesses?

The dining room has been rife with discoveries - ghost marks from old sconces on either side of the built in sideboard, hinge marks on the door frame leading into the conservatory, and also on the large doorway that leads into the dining room from the entrance hall:

Very interesting, indeed. I have a feeling the detective work will never be done, but that is part of the fun of owning an old home.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Garden Room

Not only do I have my conservatory on the first floor, but I also have what I have named The Garden Room, upstairs.

This room is attached to the smaller of the three bedrooms, and was originally a screened sleeping porch. Sleeping porches were popular here in the Valley before air conditioning. With cooler nights, people would put their beds out on the screened porch and enjoy the breezes.

Sometime in the past few years, there were windows put in around the porch. I still have the original interior screens though. The original porch floor is still visible, as well as the bead board walls and ceiling. It's very charming. Now I use this room for some of my vintage gardening items, some wicker furniture (Thanks Aunt Amy!) and PLANTS. Most of my cacti/succulent collection is in this room for the Winter. It gets quite warm during the day, and the heat that builds up lasts into the night, so the plants love it. It is a great spot to read, or to sit and chat with friends.

This is one of my favorite rooms.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Conservatory is Finished

After removing the carpet over a year ago, sanding the walls and ceiling, staining the walls and ceiling (2 coats), laying the tile, grouting the tile, and sealing the grout, I can finally say this room is finished. My tropicals finally have a nice space for the cool Winter months ahead!

To get into the room, you pass through a doorway which used to have french doors (with windows on either side.) These were removed at some point after the (previously) exterior porch was enclosed to make this room in 1949. I plan on putting in French doors and windows that match the rest of the house's windows in the future.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Morning Light

For a few fleeting moments, this corner in the inglenook is brilliant with sunlight every morning.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tiling Done

After four afternoons, what a difference!

Just need to seal the grout, and stain the quarter round.

P.S. Don't purchase the 20 inch tile cutter from Lowe's. It doesn't work. Save yourself the headache (and broken tiles) and rent a wet saw instead. Works wonders!

Thanks to my roomie Chris for her guidance and help! (She is a whiz at planning it out!)

Doesn't it look like it's been there forever?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Before and After

Before the trees were trimmed (and before the rotten porch was removed):

And after I trimmed the trees:

Much better! The Prairie style influence really shows through now that you can see the house. I've been working on the glass porch (I call it my conservatory, because that is what I use it as, and I like that it sounds sort of pretentious) so that the inside is done before winter. When I first got the keys, there was a type of indoor/outdoor carpet (filthy, and teal) that I tore out the first week. I had to scrape up a lot of old glue with a square nosed shovel (worked great) and I am now JUST getting around to finishing the room.

I found a great product that is a stain AND a polyurethane (Polyshades by Minwax) to re-do the walls and ceiling of the room which I finished today. It looks great - I put on two coats for extra protection after sanding the entire room down with a sanding block. The wood had really taken a beating from the sun, and it was really bleached out. Now it matches the woodwork in the dining room.

Minwax Polyshades are available at the Home Depot in a lot of assorted shades and in two sheens - satin and gloss.

Here is a picture of the floor as it is now and you can also see the tile I will be putting down this week (laid on the diagonal).

Here are the walls and ceiling (one coat of stain) - with two coats, they are darker and glossier now. These were basically white from being so bleached out from the sun over the past 30+ years.

I can't wait until it's finished so I can start bringing in my more tender plants before it starts to get too cold. It's already getting down into the lower 50s at night - a little too low for some of my plants.

Also, a few more photos of the exterior of the conservatory, for reference:

More later!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finally an Update

I realized the other day its been almost a year since I've posted in this blog. I'll spare you the details of the past 11 months of my life, and instead offer you a list of what has been done at the house:

1. Built new fence around backyard - currently finishing the fence on the side of the house before my fence permit inspection date in November

2. Painted entry hall ceiling, living room walls, stair hall walls (talk about a challenge - I have found a lot of ways to creatively use a ladder thanks to this project), and painted stair hall ceiling

3. Removed ugly 1970s INDOOR lighting from EXTERIOR of conservatory, replaced front porch light and back porch light (no more ugly 1970s Colonial carriage lamps!)

4. Relocated doorbell from door frame of spare bedroom (why it was there in the first place is anyone's guess) to wall above the door and replaced lighting fixtures in stair hall with something that is acceptable for now (until I find historic fixtures I like)

5. Trimmed trees in front and back yard (major undertaking), cut down nasty female Chinese pistache tree (so many sticky, sidewalk staining berries) and a badly formed/half dead ornamental cherry tree

6. Pressure washed brick patio, removed rotten boards between the brick grids and replaced with mortar, tore out fish pond in middle and filled in with sand/gravel and bricked it over, sealed all twice with Behr's Wet Look Sealer (an awesome product) - the patio is great! probably the single most time-consuming project (weeks) but that produced the best results and personal satisfaction

7. Pressure washed and sealed brick on front porch (see #6 above)

8. FINALLY found a source for picture rail hooks (that are historically appropriate, high quality, and that I LIKE) and have begun hanging pictures the way they were intended to be hanged (Victorians would swoon!). I also had trouble finding picture hanging decorative cord for less than $10 a yard, but finally found a solution at Jo-Ann Fabrics (none of my pictures are too heavy, so regular decorative cording usually used for pillow edges is a perfect, and just as eye-pleasing, substitute.) Finished nicely with a tassel on the hook!

Source for hooks: House of Antique Hardware

Amidst all of the above, I have been going through boxes and donating things that I no longer want/no longer need. Plus regular upkeep and maintenance (which is a lot on such a large lot/in such a large house - but I know what I signed up for) has kept me extremely busy.

Current (and near future) projects: Tile conservatory floor, wallpaper dining room with historic textured (paintable!) wallpaper, hook up new dining room old brass chandelier (which replaces a painted 70s one), continue hanging pictures.

After that, I think I'll just "nest" for a bit, finish my sorting/organizing/donating project, and work on cataloging family photos (which is another project I've started.)

And hopefully, of course, more blog updates with photos.