Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Living Room Update

 It's been awhile since I've posted--we've been so busy this summer--between rebuilding the porch and restaining the house, it hasn't left a lot of time for anything in the inside.

Here is the living room as we last left it in the spring.  We ripped out the ugly green carpets and exposed the beautiful hardwood floors.  Then we brought in some area rugs and some new furniture and accessorites.  The 9-foot sofa, coffee table, lounge chairs, and ottoman are original to the house.  We bought them from the original owner.  The were purchased at Sibleys, an old department store in Rochester, NY.  The mark on the bottom of the coffee table says "Heritage", but an MCM furniture expert said that the lines of the sofa look more like a Dunbar.   

The metal sculpture on the far wall above the buffet is a C. Jere reproduction purchased at Viking Home.  The buffet is a Broyhill Brasilia purchased on craigslist.  The dining set is a combination of Ikea chairs and a parsons table from Raymour and Flanigan.

Bluestone Fireplace. Mirror  and JA sculpture from Room Home in Buffalo, NY
Original 60's Lounge chair and Ottoman

Foyer.  Grasscloth and light original to the home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Screen Porch--Part 2

Many of you may have spend Memorial Day going to the beach, BBQ-ing with friends, or just relaxing…but not us!  Oh, no…we spent 1 glorious week continuing with the renovations of our screen porch.  And by “we”, I mean Dad, Dex and I.  A huge thanks to my DAD—he’s the project manager and brains behind the renovation.  He also brought up all of his tools from Pennsylvania here to make this renovation a reality on a budget.  We could have never done this without him.  Here’s a short list of what we had to do:
-pressure wash all surfaces
-stain the ceiling
-stain the siding
-repaint the window to the house that exists in the screen porch
-install new screening
-install new cedar trim (inside and outside the screen porch)
-stain all new cedar trim
-install new screen door, header, and trim

Setting up scaffolding
new screens are in; now installing new cedar (Dad and Dex)

New cedar trim, new door

Freshly painted (by me and Dex)

Thousands of finishing nails and gallons of stain later, here’s what we have!  A beautiful finished screen porch!!
View from living room

Except for the outside stairs.

rotten stairs

They started to give way from all of the use during the renovation.  So they were ripped down when we finished the porch.  Holy rotten wood—the stringers were completely rotten.
Next step—new porch stairs!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

sometimes less is more

The incredible amount of rain we’ve had this spring has made our landscape green and lush—and overgrown!  Mix years of landscape neglect with 15 inches of rain and it’s prime breeding ground for weeds threatening to take over the flower beds.  
We have a big stone planter box along the front covered porch that had shrubbery that had seen much better days.  Not only were the shrubs woody and sad-looking, they blocked any kind of view of the front door for visitors.  Dex (hubby) spent one rainy Sunday this spring ripping out shrubs so we could re-plant in the box.  I’m not sure what we’ll do long-term, but for now, I few different kinds of flowering annuals fit the bill.  Since it’s a pretty shady area, we looked for shade-plants like Coleus, impatiens, and salvia (I think).  Never heard of Salvia before the Miley Cyrus debacle!  Now Now we can actually see the front door!  And in a few weeks, the flowers should grow pretty big and add some nice  color to the front entryway.

ripping out overgrown shrubbery

These shrubs were pretty sad looking.

Planting new flowers.  You can see the front door again!
I took off last Friday to get a head start on weeding—and boy did we need  it.  It actually cleared up on Friday to be a beautiful day…and I took full advantage of it.  I started out by clearing out the leaves and dead vines from the ivy that runs along both sides of the walkway along the east side of the house.  I’m not a big fan of the stuff, and it doesn’t appear to be the healthiest, so I do think it will be replaced at some future point.  But for now, it’s staying.  As I was clearing out leaves, I noticed what looked like a piece of bluestone under a bunch of the ivy.  I lifted up the vines and found a beautiful bluestone wall! Who knows how long this had  been covered?!  It’s the little things that make me happy—I tell ya!

Overgrown ivy along the side of the house. (Before)

Finding a wall we never knew was there (After)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Has (Finally) Sprung!!

After a brutally snowy winter and a washout of a spring, we finally got a beautiful week of sunshine this past week!!  Our trees and flowers have finally blossomed.  It's been fun seeing the landscape come into full bloom for the first time.  When we saw the house last year, we didn't really see the landscape in its full spring glory.  We are so thrilled with this nice little surprise of a flower package--it is absolutely beautiful. 

Dex and I were sitting out on the porch last night, just talking and enjoying the scene. Today it is raining (again) but the flowers are still beautiful. 

Our Screen Porch Renovation--Part 1

One of our most favorite features in our new house is our screen porch. It extends right off the living room, which is on the second floor of our home because of the walk-out basement.  The ceiling in the porch is a 2-story post and beam structure.  The screen porch looks out over our huge Pennsylvania bluestone patio and beautiful yard.  At 12’ x 20’,  it truly is an extension of our living room in the summer.
When we had the house inspected before we bought it, we knew there were some issues with the screen porch. The inspector said that the main header beam was rotten and that it would need to be replaced.  Luckily,  I have a very handy Dad who is retired and was willing to help us fix it.  The only problem is that Dad lives out of state and runs his own handyman business so he doesn’t always have as much time to spend on our projects.  But I have his only grandchild as incentive to come visit! 
Dad and hubby started to get to work on the porch very shortly after moving last August.  Unfortunately the porch was in worse shape that we realized.  Pulling off the trim revealed rotten structural beams, and a floor with dry rot.  The header was replaced, many of the beams were replaced or repaired, and the floor was  replaced.   After much consideration, we decided to replace the original wood tongue-and-groove porch floor with Aeratis, a PVC porch floor product.  It was much more expensive than wood, but the thought of a maintenance free, splinter-free floor appealed to us a lot.  And it really does look beautiful.  We researched alternative products like Trex, which would have been cheaper, but ultimately decided that we needed tongue-and-groove porch flooring because we didn’t want bugs to come into the porch through the gaps in the floor of a traditional deck.  And two local lumber yards highly recommended the Aeratis product.  It was a big investment in time and $$, but I think it was worth it.

Stay tuned for Screen Porch Renovation--Part 2.
New Aeratis porch floor.

New header and support structure.

Another view of the porch

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Updating our home while still honoring its heritage.

I am a somewhat obsessed with design.  I love d├ęcor, fashion, art, etc. Part of the reason for starting this blog is to “meet” other people like me.  People who love the character of an older home, who can appreciate honoring a home’s heritage, and spend a great deal of time thinking about it and working on them. 
One of the things I find most interesting is seeing other people’s reactions to the new house.  Their reactions generally fall into two camps—1.  The ones that are awe-struck by it and don’t think we should change a thing, and 2. The people who think it’s old and needs to be gutted and filled with a bunch of furnishings from Pottery Barn.   I don’t mean to bash “The Barn” so much…they have nice things and I actually used to really like them.  And the houses that are decorated in this manner tend to sell very quickly so it obviously appeals to a lot of people.  (It just seems so generic to me these days.)
But it doesn’t feel like the soul of THIS house.  This house longs to be groovy, hip, and cool—but in a grand way.  This house tells me it longs to be in California.  It begs us to lounge around and sip martinis with our friends.  It wants a kidney shaped pool in the back yard.
The fact that the home has never been remodeled remuddled is mostly a great thing since we don’t have a clashing mix of styles.  But it also brings about a sense of responsibility that we have to be stewards of the home and honor its midcentury roots with our decorating decisions.  So that question is how far to take that?  How do I update the home to make it comfortable for me and my family, while staying true to its groovy beginnings?  It’s a challenge.
I’d say that we fall more towards the “don’t change a thing” side of those two camps but not entirely.  While I certainly don’t feel it needs to be gutted, I do want to change a few things.  While I do feel that a home should be decorated in a way that is congruent with its architecture, ultimately, you need to be happy with it.  And it needs to work with your family.  So while some people might somehow save the peeling original starburst wallpaper in the powder room, I don’t really like it and it’s not something that we will save.  With that said, I don’t think we’ll be installing granite countertops in the kitchen anytime soon, either.  (Sorry—no offense to granite countertops—again…too generic for me and I’m over it.)
Budget, at least in our family, is another strong consideration.  Even if I wanted to, we don’t have the budget to replace all of our furniture with period appropriate pieces.  Besides, I love the look of an eclectic, well-curated home.  We’ve parted with a few beautiful pieces from our old home that didn’t really fit the new house, but we’ve kept most of them.  I guess you could say that my decorating style is “vintage-modern-earthy-glam”.  And that is the style that I hope, with time and money, to instill in this home too.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Closing week chaos

Closing week went something like this:  work, pack, work, pack, work, pack, find more boxes, work, pack, pack, pack, find more boxes, pack, pack, find more boxes, pack, take care of your kid, and control your mixed feelings/mental breakdowns about moving all at the same time. 
Night before close:  pick up u-haul, final walk-through with new owners of old house; pack up u-haul with boxes until 1:00 AM
Day of close:   Final walk-through of new house, hubby waits for movers to show up, go close on new house, then go back to old house where movers have arrived to destroy your furniture and walls while working as slow as molasses.  Then you go to the new house and help direct the movers while hubby unloads an entire uhaul of boxes by himself.  Movers are still moving furniture.  Hubby takes uhaul back so we don’t have to pay for another day but has no one to pick him up because movers are STILL moving furniture.  10 hours after they started, movers are done.  Moving company supervisor cannot do math so you have to figure the bill out for him.  Go pick up hubby where he has been waiting for the past 2-3 hours, go clean old house as best you can in the dark, and then go back to the disaster that awaits in the new house.
10:00pm:  Make yourselves look as presentable as possible and then go to the neighborhood party that is going on that night because everyone is excited to meet you!
Final step of the week before collapsing from sheer exhaustion:  Make a good impression by drinking way too many cocktails with your new neighbors.  After all…you can do this because you can WALK home!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Time Capsule

As I mentioned in my last post, the “new” house was a time capsule.   It was built in 1965 and still had its original owner.  The owner's wife had passed away the year before and the house was simply much too big and too much work for him, who was now 80—albeit a young 80.  Many people have asked me if he went into a home and the truth is that he actually met a very nice woman and he moved in with her—at 80!  Life is short,  you know? 
We had the great advantage of not only having a home that has never been “remuddled”, but also having access to the man who built the house in 1965!  We are very lucky indeed.
Take a look at pictures of our house when it was on the market using the "Before" link on the right hand column.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

“Our search is over…”

My hubby and I got married in Jan 2010. We are a "blended" family, with each of us bringing children from our previous marriage. We lived in a home that I had purchased as a single mother 5 years before. It was a beautiful storybook cottage, in a leafy old neighborhood, fantastic school district, near EVERYTHING, yet quiet and peaceful. Hubby loved it too. But what was my former dream house suddenly seemed very cramped with our new family of 2 adults, 2 teenagers, a tween, and guests that visited from out of town fairly often. We needed some space to breathe. We considered an addition. But it would have been difficult, expensive, and frankly, I just don't think we were really up to handling that kind of stress.

So after thinking about it for awhile, we began to contact realtors and to look at homes. Hubby and I really wanted a home that had character (read: older) with established landscape close to the city. We wanted a home that we could make our own—not something brand new in a cookie-cutter development. We loved our "too-small" house and its neighborhood so much; finding a suitable replacement wasn't going to be easy. There were a few homes for sale near our old one, but they were either a)too small, b)money pits—maintenance issues that were too far gone, or c) way out of our price range.

When I make a decision about something important, I dive into it head first—that's just how I am. So my early mornings and evenings were spent looking for houses. I looked a hundreds online and probably 20-30 in person. One day about a month later, I saw an interesting house online included in a list of houses that just came on the market and were having open houses that Sunday. It wasn't in the area that we were focusing on, but it was close to the city and had a good school district. It was also a ranch home (which I hadn't considered), and it looked like it was decorated in the 1960's. Still, there was something about it that I liked—and I (jokingly) sent hubby an e-mail with the subject line "Our search is over…"

Out of curiosity, we went to the open house that Sunday. We were the first people to arrive. Hubby and I didn't want to be rude but we honestly couldn't stop laughing when we were walking around the house. Yes, it was amazing. Actually, it was spectacular. Everything was clean and immaculate. But it had pretty much been decorated in 1965 when the house was built and never changed. It felt as if we had walked into the set of the Mary Tyler Moore show. Or Dick Van Dyke. The open house attracted a LOT of people, many of whom had the same reaction as us. But it was done well, and it was obvious that the owners had spent some serious $$ in 1965. Still, we loved it. I started imagining all the things we could do with the house, and how our new family could LIVE in the house and make it our own.
We were still unsure…because it wasn't in the town that we loved, mainly. Plus, we still thought that maybe, somehow we could make it work in our "too small" storybook cottage. In the meantime, we kept looking, hoping that a house like that would pop up in our town.

Weeks later, with nothing new on the horizon, we realized "who were we kidding"…houses like that don't come on the market often. The kids had seen it by that point and loved it. My daughter was comfortable with switching elementary schools. My husband's kids go to school where their mother lives so a much bigger home was all good to them. So we bit the bullet and listed my beautiful storybook cottage, put a contingent offer on our new dream house, and hoped for the best.