Thursday, January 26, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Trashy Post, with Treasure Too

The wasp nest is a nice touch, don't you think?

While paint is drying and blinds are being hung in January 2012, lets move backwards in time to September 2011, and remember what was going on as summer was saying goodbye.

By Labor Day, we'd created a refuse pile: carpet, carpet pad, tack strip, carpet tiles, ceramic tile, a couple of weirdly yellow vinyl accordion doors, all the ooky and odd looking pinkish plywood paneling, broken roller blinds, plastic curtains (the less said about these the better), busted up packing boxes, and assorted demolition lumber. Possibly the remains of our sanity.

It was all stuffed in the garage to prevent it getting rained on (and thus becoming a festering refuse pile), and to camouflage it from the neighbors (and potentially becoming a citation of city code refuse pile). But after a few months, I was beginning to have nightmarish dreams about the slithering mass, and really, in the Midwest one tends to want one's garage for the actual storage of automobiles by the time snow flies.

I hiked up my demolition pants (really, I don't know what those would be. But it sounds very Tank Girl, doesn't it?) and ordered a dumpster. We Labored on Labor Day.

Goodbye never felt so good.
While we were cleaning out the garage, we discovered that it had an attic. Worlds to discover! We're sick of this garbage! Grant took a flashlight and started up.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Half Done and Half Mad

Seriously. Just shoot me.

How long did it take to finish the Great Wall of China? Thousands of years. Multiple dynasties.

That's how long it's taking me to paint one freakin' room. Honestly. I could scream.

Have there been problems? Not really. I just need time. But then:

I need a paycheck so I go to work, and the kids want clean socks and Mr. Man Friend wants to snuggle (and I want to snuggle too) and we're out of milk and the garbage needs taking out and the furnace guy's coming in half an hour and damn I forgot to pay that bill. That's what happens.

Last weekend I started with a goal of finishing a half done bedroom, and I got half done with the half done. I ran clean out of time. So I cleaned my roller out on the wall until it could go no more, put it down, and walked away. Still half done, and I'm gone half mad about it (British definition: crazy, gone 'round the bend mad).

That's what it looks like, up above in the photo. That's Valspar Sterling Silver Gray on the walls, by the way. It looks a little bluish on the computer monitor, even with some color correction of the shot. It's the bedroom for the oldest son, Grant. Color scheme, grays, black, and orange.

Things are coming. I'm making progress. That's what I tell myself. But the situation is beginning to tick me off.

Please stand by for a) a complete wall (which the Chinese Dynasties never really did, really, b) a happier homeowner, and c) a blogger with something to say/show.

Now, where did I leave that roller?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Garden Dreaming...

You're a credit to your country, soldier; and in a jaunty outfit too.

After a weirdly warm winter thus far, cold temperatures finally arrived in the Midwestern town where I live. I've had beef and barley soup in the crockpot, wool socks on my feet, and an extra blanket on the bed.

Just one week of freezing temps got me hankering for yard work. A girl always wants what she can't have, right?

Honestly, I've been hankering for yard work since I ripped apart the overgrown front yard. I counted on the wholesome white blanket of Midwestern snow to cover up my landscape lameness, my garden gaffe. But argh, we had to go and have record breaking, global warming sort of temps all season up until now. So the neighbors get to look at my churned up yard, and I get to cringe every time I pull up into my own driveway.

Still, the best part of gardening this time of year is the daydreaming. Possibly because the ONLY part of gardening this time of year is the daydreaming.

I've tried to do a little on-line research about what was common about urban gardening during the 30's and 40's when my house was brand new, and I've found very little except for the one thing that everyone knows about, which is victory gardening (check out the fabulous victory garden poster from the Library of Congress Archive above). While I certainly intend to grow a few veggies, right now the front yard mess takes precedence (and perennials).

Right now the landscaping consists of an uneven glob of beds that aren't properly edged, a gi-normous pampas grass thing that is so out of scale it looks likes its eating the northeast corner of the house, and a bunch of broken chunks of concrete that some former occupant used to construct a retaining wall near the driveway. Whee.

I'm going to keep looking for references (I wish I had a stack of Better Homes and Gardens magazines from the 1940s to page through); in the absence of solid research, I'm leaning towards a garden of classic perennials: irises, daylilies, viburnums, roses.

I put together a Pinterest board of inspirations pieces here. Go have a look. The fabulous lawn furniture below is from an antique shop called Kudzu in Atlanta, and I hope to journey there when I go visit my sister this summer.

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

All right people. I have no lawn chair, no iced tea, no bare feet. But I've got a stack of garden and seed catalogs. Happy garden daydreaming until April.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kitchen Cabinet Update: Classic Harvest

My response from the customer service folks at Haas Cabinet in Sellersburg, Indiana was brief, but speedy and informative! I posted yesterday about my Mom's stellar renovation of my old kitchen cabinets, here, and I sent an email off to Haas letting them know that a forty-to-fifty year example of their products were still going strong. By this morning I had an answer back, short but sweet!

My cabinets were a style called Classic Harvest, and they were manufactured from "the late 1960s" and were discontinued in 1982. That makes my original target guess of the 1970s pretty good. Judging from the counter top that I removed from it, which was a laminate counter top with a metal spline around the backsplash joint and a flat box construction in the front, with a color (yellow) popular during the 1970s but not really the 1980s, I'm guessing this kitchen cabinet ensemble went in before 1980. Really, the counter top looked a lot older than the cabinets themselves did. So unless someone popped an old counter onto new cabinets to save money (and I don't think it did because the original layout of the kitchen was changed as well--more on that in another post), I think 1970s is the decade.

The cupboards are birch, not maple as I'd originally guessed. In my readings about the wood around the interwebs, the wood is fine grained and hard, and often stained dark and used as a less expensive stand in for costlier woods like maple, cherry, and walnut. Still, in the woodworking world it's considered a high quality hard wood, attractive and long wearing.

The customer service response e-mail said that it appeared as though the finish on my cupboards, also called "Classic Harvest" was a shinier gloss than the original that was a more satin or matte appearance. That would be my Mom's handiwork and really, the surfaces were soooooo worn that it was impossible to really tell what the finish on them had been like to begin with. I'm fine with the higher gloss finish, which will be more tolerant of heavy use and wipe-downs. I cook, and I cook for four boys, Mr. Man Friend, friends and family. My kitchen sees heavy use.

I am so glad I let the details sink in, lived with it, and thought about it before deciding to do anything. I think there is an attitude promulgated by home improvement television shows that if its old, dirty, or simply not to one's taste, "rip it out! get rid of it! update it!" without homeowners really considering that, in the end, the show and its advertisers want to sell you things--tools and counter tops and buckets of paint and pricey kitchen remodels. Which leads to all sort of horrors with older homes, like people painting exterior brick (which really should be a crime), or ripping out expensive and irreplaceable tile work. In the case of homes that are less than 50 years old, we may be systematically destroying architectural history simply because we haven't had enough perspective to appreciate it yet.

Are these kitchen cabinets original to the house? No, they aren't, though I have some clues what 1939 may have looked like (another post for another time). But they mark a time in the home's history, were still here, and really, under all that grime, were a quality feature. Being able to renovate them made me feel somewhat less guilty about the loss of that heavily damaged vintage wallpaper, which is still bugging me. It's all a balancing act that people who live in old homes have to strike, between what can be saved, and what can't, between 21st century tastes and the tastes of previous generations, between the the quaintness of another time and the necessary conveniences of today.

But for now, I think I've finally learned to park my HGTV attitudes at the doorstep, slow down, and THINK before I start discarding things out of hand.

***disclaimer again: I have not accepted any compensation for the mention of Haas Cabinet in this post.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Keeping What You've Got: Rehabbing the Kitchen

Take a good look. Quick, before I fry some bacon.
These last few days I've been packing away the Christmas goods and unrolling the drop cloths. I need to check some painting projects off my list so they're done and blog fodder! In the meantime, I thought I'd show off what's up in the kitchen, an ongoing project that's been headed up by my Mom.

The house was built in 1939-1940, and the kitchen was updated somewhere in the 1960s-1970s time frame. I'm leaning more toward 1970s because of the style of cabinets and hardware--slab-style wood doors with dark stain, and colonial revival style hardware.

To say I was less than in love with the kitchen is probably being kind. "Vintage" and "period" are two words you use when a room is aging well. "Old" and "tired" are the words you use when it's not. This kitchen was not a whole lot of the former, and gobs of the latter. Add "icky" and "gross" to the list of descriptors and you've pretty well got the idea. Rusty and mildewed refrigerator that had no freezer. A ten year old range that looked like it hadn't been cleaned in its lifetime. A blah yellow Formica counter top with chips, cracks, dings, and bleached spots all over it. Someone had slopped a nondescript dark blue paint over some of the walls in recent years. And I do mean slopped. They got paint on the cabinets, the floor, the appliances, and the window trim. The cabinets were the worst. They were sticky, fingerprinted, covered in dirt and grease, and looked like someone had beaten them with a stick. They even smelled bad.

It's a good thing I lived with them for awhile. At any rate, I had to. While I was mucking through the plumbing disasters of July and counting my pennies, it became clear to me that I had money to rehab the cabinets but not to replace them. And if I bought an older home because I loved its character, wasn't I supposed to, um, you know, save its character? It's unfortunate I don't have any "befores" to show, because readers would truly understand how discouraged I was, despite my commitment to old home character.

When Mom started cleaning the cabinets and we started really looking at them, we noticed that these were actually very well-made, with high quality hardware. I suspect they are maple. She took a few doors off and brought them back to her place to strip, sand, and refinish them (we decided to leave the stain as is). She also cleaned about forty years of muck off the hardware. The results were pretty darn fabulous, as the opening photo above shows (The new microwave, installed courtesy of my brother-in-law, Rusty. Holla!) And here's the hardware detail below:

There's "patina" and then there's "grime."
Mom's been tackling it a cabinet door or drawer face at a time since September, and when she gets a whole raft of 'em done, she refinishes the face frames and puts everything back together again. To say that I owe her a bunch doesn't even do it justice. She has transformed this kitchen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More Vintage Lamp Love

From Etsy shop ILiveModern
I just had to post a photo of these, found on my Saturday morning coffee-and-browse Etsy session. Green, Asian kitsch, and with planters! Original shades! I'm so enthusiastic I'm overusing exclamation points!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Vintage Fabric Find

From Rubisco, on Etsy
Just a short post to share a vintage fabric find, this time on Etsy. Etsy seller Rubisco has flour-sack fabric, vintage aprons, afghans, and upholstery cloth. Go check her shop out! I loved the Art Deco design and greens and greys of this feed sack design. It was so unusual, compared to the flowery pastels of many other feedsack patterns. With luck you'll be seeing more of it on the blog soon.

The fabric arrived wrapped in a pattern remnant tied with string, and two old lace doilies were thrown in as a gift. What a lovely touch. This is what makes shopping Etsy so great. And oh heck, so addictive.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Renovation Goals 2012

"A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest...wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image." 
--- Joan Didion

I strayed across the quote from writer Joan Didion in a back issue of Country Living Magazine, and I'm taking it as my inspiration quote for 2012. Isn't it lovely?

I could use some. Inspiration that is. And some Southern Comfort on the rocks.

Don't get me wrong.  I love this house, and I don't regret for a moment my decision to purchase it. But as a single working mom, I've come up hard against the realities of how much money I make and how much time I have contrasted starkly against how much this house needs.  It's a little discouraging at times.

So, when I saw this quote my heart did a little sideways squirm-- part YeaH! and part good old Lutheran guilt. Sideways squirms are always uncomfortable and they mean it's time to get to work. Long lists overwhelm me, so I've honed it down five broad categories that apply to many, many of the things I have to do, and get me further down the road no matter which one I choose.

1. Finish a bedroom. Any bedroom.
My son Noah's bedroom is finished. If you don't count painting the woodwork. The twins room is done. If you don't count painting the wood work, the desk, and hanging the art work. Grant's room needs two walls painted, a head board attached to the bed, and the woodwork painted. My room is the worst. It isn't much further beyond this stage:

After my sister rocked that drywall for a couple of weeks in July, I plastered for awhile, did a little painting, threw my bed in a corner (not this corner, but one of them) and......well, life happened.

2. Make progress with little projects.
Around the house are dozens, if  not hundreds of little projects. Some as small (and as boring) as tightening screws on old doorknobs. Others more fun, like this one:

The lamp is a vintage find on Etsy, perfect for Grant's room in shades of gray, black, and orange. But the shade needs covering with some color scheme appropriate fabric. The hardware needs adjusting too, so the shade won't hang crooked as it does in this photo.

3. Organize.
Moving, despite my best laid plans, devolved into a haphazard affair where in the end I just wanted to get the hell out, and get the hell in. Boxes ended where they got dropped, and as we moved into spaces it was a matter of getting stuff up out of the way. What resulted was a lot of this:

Lightbulbs and toothpaste go together like-- Oh, nevermind.
I can't tell you how embarrassing that photo is. I think I'd rather show my underpants to boys on the playground. Anyway, it's more than embarrassing. It's damned inconvenient and aggravating and I cuss a little every time I open that door. So while organizing isn't really renovating, in a sense they sort of are seamless with one another. Both improve your life, make it more aesthetically pleasing and convenient (i.e., less cussing).

4. Better home AND garden.
The front yard was left a disaster this fall, after I ripped up a half dead and buggy flowering plum, a bunch of weeds, and broken chunks of concrete (white trash landscaping). The house exterior desperately needs paint, fresh color, and the shutters put back on the facade. I'll be spending the summer giving this house the curb appeal that it deserves. 

At this point I'm welcoming all landscaping design ideas, though I will try to stick with the classic American garden standards to fit in with the house's history: peonies, iris, roses, and asters.

5. Investigate little mysteries.
This house has a ton of them. This, for instance:

It's my doorbell, hanging in the dining room. If only I knew what it sounded like. Someone disconnected the wiring from it years ago, and removed the doorbell from the front door jamb. Apparently a vintage Nutone doorbell is a desirable feature in an old home, but I don't know much about Nutone or have the faintest idea how to get this thing up and running again. Learning about history in general and the house's in particular is going to be the fun part. The wiring, not so much.

2012 has begun, beyond the doorstep, into the paint cans, closets, and garden beds. Let's go!