Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stickley, Secrets and Snow

We are pretty fortunate to live fairly near one of the few places that sells Stickley showroom furniture "as-is", and bought this insane table. It weighs 450 pounds, which is actually one of my favorite things about it.

Prior to the arrival of the table I had stalled out majorly on the reno. The fading light of the winter and general inertia had set in, and all I really wanted to do was drink in the bath and then go to sleep.
However, the table totally galvanized me. We painted the room it was in, which was the last of the main rooms still to have the handicap of a dark color.
As you can see, it makes a big difference. It took the room from needing many more standing lights, and perhaps some track lighting, to bright and comfortable.

Yes, I know, it's another pic of someone painting, but you can see what I mean about the color. I know you can.

And after, even in the dark of winter, a pleasant room:

So, to celebrate my husband made me a drink called the "Night Marcher". Just the ingredients in a row are pretty intimidating:

But the finished product is quite pretty!

Then one of the former owners stopped by, and just wanted to see the house. Not the people we bought it from, but the people before that, who lived here for a long time. She was walking around and then suddenly she stopped and said "You know about the hidden panel, right?"
We did not!
But now we do!
It's so awesome to have a hidden panel. I always wanted a house with secret places, and so this is just too cool:

And then this morning the first real snow fell:

Eventful weekend. I am so super excited. Even after shoveling a s**tload of snow.
Here is the Night Marcher, for those of you who may be interested:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Kitchen iz teh Awesum!

Finally it is done!

I am standing at my beautiful granite countertop listening to 21st century breakdown on the kitchen stereo! Steaks are cooking on the range. Broccoli au gratin is cooling to edible temp from the oven.

It's all good.

Some craftsman pulls:

The copper kettle looking pretty on the silver range (yes! it cooks with gas!):

The double doors onto the deck:

The granite (note: reflection of the winter trees outside in the glossy stone):

More craftsman pulls:

As you can see we made the decision not to try to look like a restoration since none of the original stuff was there anyway, but rather to look modern in a way that was respectful of the house's age and dignity.

What is hard to tell:
The molding is all new, there was almost none around the doors previously.
The ceiling is flat now, not popcorn.
The floor, which is a lighter wood than the rest of the house, has been totally refinished.

I think it worked out great. We had a few small setbacks. Okay, and some bigger setbacks, but it was totally worth it.

Mmmmm.... and now for the steak.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More wallpaper from Hell

I have blogged a little about the wallpaper in this house, but the fact is I've kind of been avoiding it.

After the fiasco with the laundry room was over I haven't wanted to brave wallpaper removal again, although there is much of it, and much left to be done.

For reasons I don't fully understand this little town has a real problem with wallpaper. Kind of like the problem California has with medflies, or Australia has with bunny rabbits.

At some point the women in this town go crazy. Possibly after the kids leave for college they have no other way of dealing with empty nest syndrome or possibly after the loss of their spouse they hallucinate from grief, I don't know. But they go a little crazy, and they decide, "You know what'll cheer me up? Putting up some WALLPAPER!". Then up it goes.

I know it sounds sexist to assume, but I just have a hard time picturing any man I have ever known choosing any of this wallpaper.

When we looked at houses this was a trend. Crazy wallpaper in every room, often with matching drapes, and matching fabric on the couch, and once even matching fabric over the speakers. And when I say matching, I don't mean in a similar color, I mean exactly matching.

One had sparkles, one had blue fuzz, one had a raised motif of unicorns, almost all of them also had some floral elements.

This house had a little bit less of that, but it still had some. The dining room in particular had a dark red wallpaper with gigantic gold pears on it. It was high quality stuff, looked really expensive, and made the room dark like a prehistoric cave.

Shortly after we moved in my Mom-in-Law came to help us make the place more habitable and took on the unenviable job of removing wallpaper. She has a whole system for taking down wallpaper, which worked a lot better than my previous system. My previous system being a combination of scraping and foul language. I think she took down maybe 4 times the amount I did in 1/4 the time, and what she does basically is after using the little device which pokes holes in the wallpaper she coats it with really hot water and then lets it sit, but not too long maybe 15 minutes. Then it comes off more easily.

My Mother-In-Law assessing the task before her:

The room after:

What I want to point out is that even though the latter picture was taken on a rainy day in October and the former was taken on a sunny day in July, the painted room is still lighter than the wallpapered one. I love how the light colors really call attention to the woodwork! It looks white but it's actually kind of cream.

Now we just have to paint all the ceilings, so that the ceiling is not darker than the walls. Oh, and take down the wallpaper in the rest of the rooms. Do I feel like getting out the scraper today? Hm, maybe later.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Showerhead

This is the Moen 21777. So named because it has seven patterns of water distribution. I now have two of them, one in each bathroom with a shower hookup.

We decided on this one after an extensive 1/2 hour of research during which we looked up some amazon reviews and consumer reports rankings.

However, some people did a lot more research than that.

Note the following review excerpt for a different head advertising "hydrokinetic" action:

"I have tried over 10 showerheads recently, and this one has the 2nd best pressure of all of them. (The "best" one stings too much.) I highly recommend this showerhead. It is the one I plan to keep using. Sadly, it does not come in a handheld version."

Now that is a man (yes, it does seem to be a man) who knows his showerheads.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Well, THERE's your problem...

So the heating and cooling guy came to check out the furnace. In case you missed the previous installment I'll just say that this is the same furnace that spewed a large amount of moldy smelling air the first time we turned it on.

Given the nature of the upkeep on the house to date, I expected something to be seriously wrong with it. So, I called in some experts. They said it would be $100 to inspect and clean the furnace itself..... and $500 to clean the ducts.

My heart sank. Another $500, there it goes. But if we have no choice, it goes on the credit card, along with everything else we have had no choice about in the past 2 1/2 months.

Then when they said they had a record of an inspection order from 1991 which had been canceled I was even more peeved. I expected that no upkeep had been done on the furnace since 1959, the same time they last redid the kitchen.

However, when the guy got here and, several hours later, finished the inspection I found out several things.

1. The furnace is from 1994. So it looks like it wasn't inspected, got used anyway, failed 3 years later and had to be replaced. Woohoo! (I mean, for me.)
2. The ducts would cost much less to clean than I was quoted, because they only reach to the 1st floor. The other floors have radiant heat.
3. The ducts do not need to be cleaned right now !?!
4. The cause of the smell is......

The filter! So he replaced it! And now the heat smells okay!

And to show how awful the filter was, I put the replacement one and the old one side by side:

Just wow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

200 lbs of WHAT?

To feel like I was still doing something in the rest of the house while the kitchen was being torn apart, I called a chimney sweep.

YES, they exist! Sadly he had no Cockney accent, but he did tell me that he removed 200lbs of dead animals and composted leaves from EACH chimney in the house. And that I was lucky that he doesn't charge by the hour. When he left he looked like a real chimney sweep- covered in soot up to both elbows.

It's a good thing too, because we'll need those fires blazing if we can't afford to clean out the heating ducts.

It was just cold enough to turn them on the other day and a large amount of moldy smelling air wafted up out of the registers. I called the heating and AC company and they said they had a record of our house under a different name, but that although they had been called to do the service in 1991 the appointment was canceled.

How much slack do you think is appropriate to cut the people who lived here before? They had four teenage kids. Okay, maybe some slack.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Totally Gut My Kitchen

A lot has happened since the last post, which I'm posting about only now partly because I have started work and therefore have less time for DIY. The great thing about work is that I have more money for DIbyhiringotherpeople!

The biggest project is the kitchen. Which was gutted totally on the first of the month. For a while it looked truly surreal, then for a long time nothing appeared to happen but workmen (and workwomen!) were making lots of loud noises.

Then there were cabinets. Soon, maybe, there will be countertops? I live in hope.

It was necessary to do something about the kitchen for the following top ten reasons:
10. The appliances were state of the art...for 1959. Also broken.
9. The door out onto the deck was being locked with a broken hockey stick.
8. Turning on the vent hood produced smells from the same era as the appliances.
7. The bottom oven made lots of smoke but no heat.
6. The top oven had two settings- off and broil. If you wanted the bottom of your food warm you were SOL.
5. The fridge was full of mold.
4. The ceiling was popcorn (yes, in this house!)
3. The floor had water damage.
2. The garbage disposal made a sound like a Red Hot Chili Peppers drum solo.
and the number one reason to redo the kitchen.....
1. Everyone who started a tour of the house in the kitchen did a double take when the door to the living room opened. Every time.

Here are some pics:

Freezer mold:

Totally gutted:

And then there were cabinets!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You say it's my birthday....

We had the first actual party in the house, and it was excellent. Still not fully set up, so I decided to call it a BYOB party- not booze, we have plenty of that. Bring your own BED.

People brought air mattresses, and everyone had a big empty room. We got the door repainted, just in time, and the knocker installed. Happily the color turned out really nice when it dried, since there was a while before it dried where it looked pink.

My husband at work:

The red door:

Nice knocker:

It was wonderful to have people in the house having a good time. Also one guest dog, who is so cute!

Sleepy puppy:

The highlights by far were a wonderful dinner including BBQ Salmon and fresh local corn, make your own sundaes with cake mix-in (yeah, the busted 1959 oven burned the whole top off the cake, but it worked out), and FIRE DANCING!

Gorgeous Genevieve spinning fire on her knees on our back deck:

Drea looking serene in a wheel of flame:

Drea and Genevieve together:

A multi-armed Goddess of Fire:

One of the happiest birthdays I've ever had. Especially since the age at which you are supposed to stop caring about your birthdays is 21, and that was ,um, a few years ago. Fire spinning will be happening at many future parties, that is certain.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Grass in Mass

Grows fast! Especially with all this rain, so we decided to hire some guys to mow the lawn. Yeah, I know. Hard core DIY.

They were extremely exuberant, even going so far as to cross my driveway and start mowing the neighbor's lawn!

They brought me out to look at it and show me a couple of flowers that they had cut off accidentally, which were not actually my flowers. They assured me repeatedly that the flowers would grow back. When I protested that I didn't own that lawn, the guy's response was "Yeah, well, it needed it". So far my neighbor hasn't noticed the flowers, keep your fingers crossed.

Then they took me around the side of the house and showed me a hole in the ground with some bees next to it. And a few kicked up clods of dirt. He apologized to me profusely for the kicked up clods with the explanation "That's where I was running from the ground bees."

At that point I really felt like I should apologize to him, since I had never even heard of Ground Bees let alone known that I *had* some. They are still out there, not as angry, but every so often a bee pokes its little yellow head out.

Apparently they can be killed pretty easily by pouring poison into the hole in the ground, but for now I have decided to concentrate on the front door.

So, I bought this knocker.

Go for the cool stuff.

Side note: Why is it that everything I buy for the house lately sounds dirty? I showed the knocker to my husband who said "Wow, great knocker!" which only made it worse.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I like to cook with wine..

Sometimes I even put it in the food.

The past couple of days have been nothing but putting away boxes. I have a gigantic pile of boxes in the entryway which will go to the recycling center. However, I still cannot say that all the boxes are gone.

Nevertheless I am proud of all the work that has happened. The living and dining rooms are painted. The wallpaper in the dining room, removed with startling swiftness and dexterity by my mother in law, revealed a dense layer of wallpaper glue which took three days to remove. Remove it we did, Goddammit!

And tonight is the first night we actually cooked dinner. Spaghetti. In case you were wondering.

It tasted so victory.

I even put my pretty Pottery Barn napkin rings around the paper towels we are using for napkins. Now that's class.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ho Hobo Oil

So, after ripping up all the carpet I called my mom for advice about getting the floors refinished, and she suggested that instead of polyurethane I tell the floor fellows to use jojoba oil.

Because you know what I want to do, in addition to painting and cleaning everything in the house? Refinish my floors on a weekly basis with stuff that I usually associate with tiny blue Crabtree and Evelyn bottles that cost 20$ for 6 fluid ounces.

The best part of it was when I told friend M. about it, and she misheard me as "Hobo Oil". We had visions of poor, unlucky in love hobos coming in from the cold to be pressed just so that we could have first cold pressed extra virgin Hobo Oil.

Finally I did tell my mom we weren't going to do that, but that didn't go so well either.

Mom: I can't wait to come visit you and see how beauteous the floors look all refinished with jojoba oil!
Me: Well, actually we had three coats of polyurethane put down.
Mom: Oh, no!
Me: Well, the floors weren't nice enough for jojoba oil, you see, because of the cat urine...
Mom: Maybe I won't be visiting.

I am thinking of buying some jojoba oil for the guest bathroom, so that she can moisturize herself, but I'll have to tell her please not to pour it on the floor.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Big Chaotic Rooms

My kitchen is chaos!:

Yesterday kind of felt like a tornado touched down in my house. Somehow, in all the confusion and work, we scheduled the movers and the contractors who will be redoing the kitchen (more on that later) and the cable dude and the gas guy to all arrive between the hours of 8 and 11.

For a while it was just yelling as cries of "where do you want this?" and "Ma'am where's your meter?" echoed through the house.

In the middle of it the washer dryer installation crew arrived, installed the washer and dryer and left. It took me maybe 20 minutes to notice we had a washer and dryer.

Finally my husband's cousin arrived with two dogs, which was briefly more chaotic and then much, much better as she had also brought us lunch. Not sure how we would have gotten lunch otherwise.

The remainder of the day was taken up with opening boxes, each one like a cracker jack prize.

Oh, you think, I can put some dishes away. You open a box labeled dishes and get....sneakers!

Maybe I can play a game to decrease stress, you think. But where is the box with the games? Looking for it makes you stressed. You are screwed until you unpack everything.

Thankfully our friends- yes, the same ones we stayed with until the floors were done, came over and unpacked a bunch of stuff and arranged our furniture so now it just looks like we are really really messy instead of looking like the movers were actually robbers and we were never going to have any stuff.

The putting away of stuff actually stresses me out way more than the cleaning. It's a type A thing. I just can't do a thing until I finish the first thing. So everything room has to be perfect, then I can carefully place a perfect object in it and admire it.

Yeah, that's not going to happen. Better to give up now and enjoy the simple things- like how nice it was to sleep in my old bed last night.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


This morning we got up, packed our stuff (we have been staying with extremely tolerant friends) and headed off to that gigantic antiques fair.

It was way bigger than I expected. I mean, I saw the website, I linked you to it, but not much can prepare you for an event that has its own food court and onsite motel.

We looked at maybe half of it, and we are coming back on Sunday with a U-haul. We bought two dressers from the 1940's with an inlay of feathers on the top drawer and a repro Tiffany drop lamp. Oh, and I bought a gold pin.
Also the lemonade was delicious.

Tiffany lamp in box:

Old staircase lamp:

Tiffany lamp (installed by handier-by-the-minute husband):

We had a good time at Brimfield and I am v. proud of him for the lamp installation, which is good because the laundry room reno caused some friction. It is relatively unimportant and also more time consuming than I thought, but not more time consuming than anyone else told me to expect. I had a minor fight over it with my husband which basically went like this:

Me: It needs to be done, it needs to be done now, and I'm the one who's going to do it.
Him: There are so many other things that need to be done!
Me: But this needs to be done NOW!
Him: It's a LAUNDRY ROOM!!
Me: That's where you're RIGHT! Wait a minute...

I think maybe I felt I had to do it first because I knew that if I botched it nothing bad would happen. Not like the consequences of botching, say, painting the main living room. Well, it is done. And now I am sitting in my sunroom enjoying the newly minted wireless in our house and drinking Madeira out of a champagne glass, because it's the only kind of glass we currently have.

Tomorrow the movers will bring all of our stuff and I'll be able to drink Madeira out of a jam jar as The Lord intended.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wallpaper from Hell

Today I had everything all planned out. I was going to get up early, take down the wallpaper in the laundry room, repaint, get lunch and then go to the world's biggest antiques fair which is starting today.

There is also some water damage on the wood floor of the room, which I planned to sand and coat with the first coat of polyurethane. The room is very small, about 4x5 feet, so I figured I could do all that pretty quickly.

For those of you who have ever removed wallpaper before, please stop laughing.

It didn't exactly go as I wanted. The first strip of wallpaper was like a miracle. It came down without any remover, all in one strip, and there was wood under it which was awesome. I have never removed wallpaper before, and I thought that was normal. I was wrong.


The second went less well, multiple rounds with the hole poking device, a coat of remover, and then....the scrapening.

The last part was the worst, because the people who put up the wallpaper appeared to have painted that wall, decided they didn't like it, and put the wallpaper up over the wet paint.

So.... around about 8pm I was done talking down wallpaper. Then I had to sand! Actually the sanding was kind of fun. My husband bought an orbital sander and it worked great. It's made by Rigid, and I'm a lady who likes things that are rigid.

The floor still looks like shite. But it is sealed, so no further water damage will be done.

Here's a photo of the laundry room showing old wallpaper, half removed, and the painted cabinets with the (unpainted) wood above.

And here is is mid-painting:

And here it is after:

In the time I did all that my husband cleaned the kitchen, discovered that the fridge that came with house has a freezer full of mold, bought a new fridge, set up the internet, found out that we have one working phone jack in the entire house, made appointments for the phone company and gas company to come out and fix jacks and read meters, took a complete inventory of our outlets and brought me lunch and dinner.

My mother in law recently offered to help remove the wallpaper from other rooms in the house. Yeah, I'll be accepting that offer. In the meantime, ibuprofen and sleeeeep.

Totally Floored

Some pics of the floor refinishing...

Before (with cat pee stain!):


Before (third story):

Three layers of pain:

All ripped up:

After (third story):

Before (levelor hell):

After (*angels singing*):

A pile of nasty crap:

So, after the closing on the house my husband and I drove over with a bottle of champagne and two glasses to do the walk through and celebrate. We split the bottle on the deck and ran through all the big empty rooms shouting and laughing.

At one point I fell down drunk on the carpet in one of the upstairs rooms and just lay there giggling madly because I was so happy. It struck me that the carpet was kind of dirty but at the time I truly did not care.

The following day we came back to rip all that carpet up because the floors are going to be sanded and refinished before we move in, and WOW were we in for a nasty surprise. I didn't realize that the previous owners even had a cat, let alone a cat with severe urinary incontinence. Or monkeys.

We ripped up three rooms of carpet two of which were pretty nice and one which was badly damaged by cat pee. And then I had an allergy attack and had to stop because I was covered in hives. We drove back to NY to pack, and then I totally freaked out and drove back up over the weekend of the 4th to rip up all the carpet on the third floor in three days.

I was highly motivated. By pure rage.

When it got too dark to see carpet nails, I spent the early evening tearing down old dusty crappy levelor blinds which were covered in dust and dead bugs. Oh, and crappy faux lace polyester curtains in the bathroom which had mold on them. Oh and pulling NAILS out of the beautiful wood. And cursing. I accumulated a pile of nasty trash in the basement that is all disgusting crap I have ripped off of the house.

Soon it will go to the dump, which for a fee of only $35/year will supposedly accept *anything*. I'll be putting that to the test.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Manhattan Transfer

All my life I have had dreams about owning a house. No, not "The American Dream". I mean actual dreams, during which I was asleep. When I was a teenager they were all about decorating. I spent many nights painting walls and hanging art.

As a young adult I assumed I would never have any money- and so the dreams became about buying at auction and renovating a house that was condemned, saving it from certain destruction.
However, it hasn't been until just recently that any of these dreams started to become a reality.

The house that my husband and I finally did buy was beyond anything I had actually imagined. Since its purchase I have been cornering friends, family and new acquaintances at parties to obsessively rant about the renovations. So finally I decided to get a blog- so I could have somewhere to put all these thoughts that wouldn't drive everyone around me crazy.

But before I tell you about the new place, let me tell you about the old place. It was a rail car style apartment on the Upper East Side, about 750 square feet, which wouldn't be so bad except that it means to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night you have to walk through every other room including the kitchen. Also, it was located on the second floor above a bus stop and directly opposite a bar. Every weekend night the drunken ex-frat boys and miracle bra wearing girls would spill out into the street, scream each others' names for about an hour until the police arrived, and then retreat to sulk at the bus stop muttering about how the cops are bullshit.

I loved those cops.

The great things about our old place were that it had high ceilings and a fake fireplace and that it was seven blocks from Central Park.

The new place is a 4,800 square foot Arts and Crafts mansion on 1.8 acres of land surrounded by hundred year old trees, on a quiet street, with 6 bedrooms, four bathrooms, two half baths, two huge fireplaces and the most awesome staircase I have ever seen.

When the sellers and the bank got two different appraisals for the house, the difference in square feet between the appraisers was larger than our current apartment!

Also, our mortgage is three dollars less than our previous rent. Go ahead, hate me.

Here are some pictures, just for comparison.

Front steps before:

Pay no attention to the lady with camera in the reflection...

Front steps now:

This was the entryway:

This is the house's entryway!:

Stairs before:

Stairs after:

Living room before (note- maximum distance between television and couch is 3 1/2 feet):

Living room after:

There are many more rooms (more rooms!) in the house but I won't spam you with them now. I want the honeymoon to last a little longer. And then the bitching begins.