Monday, August 29

And The Painted Ponies Go Up And Down

It was six months ago to the day that I came and interviewed at the school where I am now employed. In two hours I will teach my first class here, starting my 27th consecutive First Day Of School. It's a little crazy to think of all that has happened in the last six months:
  • I went from living in a big city to living in a small burg.
  • I went from being a renter to being a homeowner.
  • I went from the ghettoed status of a postdoc to the holy grail of a tenure track position.
  • I went from relying on public transportation to owning a minivan.
  • I went from a Research I institution to a small liberal arts college.
  • I have gone from a place where I teach calculus to 100 students to a place where I teach calculus to 25 students.
  • I have gone from a city where some of my best friends in the world live to a place where I don't know anyone but K.
  • I have gone from buying groceries on the internet and having a huge cd store across the street from my home to having a huge suburban-style mega-grocery store down the street but having to buy cds on the internet.
  • I went from having a secretary named Lincoln to having a secretary named Kennedy
  • I went from 700 square feet to 2600 square feet (plus all that glorious storage space.)
  • I have attended both a wedding and a funeral, and had (at least) two friends have babies.
  • I went from never having stepped foot in a Lowes in my life to having spent thousands of dollars at one.
Most of these changes are for the better. Some are not. But when I look at how different my life is now than it was six months ago, it is barely recognizable. I guess everyone has those periods in their life, but it's awfully weird when they actually occur.

Saturday, August 27

Bachelor Party!

As K. mentioned earlier, she has headed out of town this week to take care of some family business, and I am left to be a bachelor. Now, when I first met K. I was only halfway through graduate school, so my bachelor days were only wild in the ways that sitting around doing math problem sets and watching X-Files reruns with my roommate is wild (speaking of which, what has Chris Carter done for us lately? I mean, nobody from that show has gone on to a succesful post-show career, but I would have expected him to at least try something. But I digress). And I guess in that sense, I will be reliving those bachelor days, only replacing the real analysis problems with syllabus writing and replacing syndicated X-Files episodes with a boatload of Arrested Development reruns on the DVR.

Over the last few days, I have managed to set up my home office, which basically involved putting a cheapy area carpet in the library (which you may recall no longer has all the dolls and Olson Twins posters) and setting up my desk. My grandfather bought the desk many moons ago when he and my grandmother moved to Miami. I have no real memories of it from their apartment in Miami, though the story goes that I used to sit at it and read when I was a young lad visiting them. I do have very strong associations of it from a decade ago when my grandfather passed away and Baubie moved to an apartment near my parents. It always appealed to me, probably due to my academic leanings, and I am very honored to have it in my home now that Baubie is gone.


Posting may or may not be light this week, as I start my teaching back up, but I can tell you that there won't be very many pictures, as K. took the digital camera with her. So in the meantime, I'll share with you the view that K. is enjoying this week.


Friday, August 26


One of the appeals of reading houseblogs for me (along with watching HGTV and devouring all the shelter mags I can get my hands on) is indulging that raw longing for your very own home, preferably idyllically fascinating and fabulous. The internet is an almost endless source for the housep*rn fetish. Have you ever spent hours looking at rental villas, riyadhs, casitas, and cabins websites? They are GREAT places to feed the beast! There's a greak Flickr group called Housep*rn. This pasttime is heightened to an Olympic Sport in New York City, as regularly displayed on Apartment Therapy. And isn't this craving the engine that drives the growth of the Martha Stewart Omni-Empire?

One of the things that I thought was so interesting and poignant about Me and You and Everybody We Know was the portrayal of Sylvie's home decor obsession. At maybe eight-years-old, the young girl has mixed up her desire for love, intimacy, sex and housewares in her mind.

Sounds crazy, I know, but isn't this what wedding registries are all about? I'm a cancer, zodiacally speaking, and had divorced parents, so I know a thing or two about the deep need for an meaningful home life.

In the month since buying and living in Our House, I would say the beast has loosened its grip somewhat. It's no longer that vague ache - not knowing what you want, so many options, or whether you will ever find it - but there are much more specific desires. What rug will work in the foyer? What color should we paint the kitchen? And will I ever find a shower curtain I like?

As a few rooms have come closer and closer to an attractive and functional state, I get a really profound sense of calm and satisfaction. You know, it really is similar to finding my dear husband. I used to have a hole in my heart that needed, and it's just gone now that I have him.

I think Old House freaks might have a teeny-tiny Hero/ine complex, because what seems to get us going isn't the gorgeous, staged J*nna J*mesons of the house world, but the Blanche Duboises, aging, battered, stuck in another era, and waiting for the kindness of a stranger.

I'm heading off for a week, and D. is starting school, so posting might be light. To hold you over, I wanted to help our dear readers get a fix:

CourthouseThe view from our western windows - pretty cool! It's the tower of our county courthouse.


An intriguing house on the next block. Gorgeous wood detailing, funky stained glass that is common in our area. To me, this house looks naked, recently bared, making me think it used to be vinyl-sided. A building permit in the window indicates someone is going to do something with it - but what?

House2A closeup.

A real Greek Revival house in Our Town. Greek


When we were on vacation in the Catskills a few years ago, we saw this house for sale in Kingston, NY. It was a crazy painted lady. This picture doesn't show the half of it - but you can see some of the contradictions. Is is Dutch Revival like the gambrel or Victorian like the fishscale siding?

kingstonThe doorway.

OldVic Detail Caught this one yesterday on my trip to a nearby city. The picture doesn't quite convey just how tall and pointy it was. Check out the cool stained glass in this detail.

Got any of your own housep*rn collection to share?

Thursday, August 25

Water Water Everywhere...

Here at the Revivalized house, we are about to get a lot cleaner. Or maybe we'll be getting the same amount of clean a lot easier. Because the past few days, while I have been getting oriented to so many things that I think I am now disoriented and while K. has been a-job-hunting and the like, our friendly neighborhood plumber, referred to us as his daughter goes to the school that one of my colleague's wife teaches at, has been doing his thing.

Yes, instead of having to drive the many blocks to a laundromat, we now have a laundry center built in to our upstairs kitchen. Gone are my dreams of having a separate "breakfast kitchen" and "dinner kitchen", and gone is the easy ability to become an Orthodox Jew and have separate kitchens for meat and dairy. But instead we will be able to do laundry on the second floor instead of clomping down to the basement.


And while it hasn't been that big a hassle for us to use the shower downstairs while waiting for the one upstairs, it has been increasingly inconvenient as we moved our bed and all of our clothes upstairs. So it is very exciting to me to think that tomorrow morning I will be able to shower without going up and down the stairs:


We also got new fixtures for the bathtub. I'll be honest and say I still don't understand why we needed them, but the plumber convinced K., so we got them, despite it taking not one but two trips the half hour each way to Lowes in the last 50ish hours, as the first set we bought was defective. But boy they like purty:


The work all ended up being a lot more expensive than we had hoped and than he had estimated, in part because the plumber thought he could do the electrical work on our dryer but ended up needing to get some help, as it turns out that the stovetop from which he was going to steal voltage for the dryer was actually on two separate breakers, or something like that -- I really need to learn more about electricity at some point. But it is done, and I think we will be much cleaner now. Which is good, as the students have arrived on campus and I start teaching on Monday. Ack.

Officially Small Town

One of the wildest synchronicities of our move is that - simply through the vagaries of the academic job market - we moved back to the state where we lived three years ago and where we still had our driver's licenses. Even stranger: my license expired the very next day AFTER we closed on our house.

As of yesterday, I'm totally legitimate. I got my new driver's license with our new address on it. I use it to drive our Pod, which even has plates for this state.

I've even recieved my voter registration card, which advises me:
"You should keep this card on your person. It is identification of your right to vote at your new election district. Under the law, you must present a form of identification to the election officials the first time you vote in a new election district."
Boyo, they take these things seriously in these small Red towns. But not as seriously as they take weeds.

One of our introductions to small town life was receiving a letter from the municipality a week after we took possession of our postage stamp of lawn. It informed us that:
"Over the past several years the town has spent a tremendous amount of effort and a good bit of money to improve the appearance and vitality of our town. One of my responsibilities as the Code Enforcement Officer is to inspect properties for violations of maintenance under various ordinances. Not all violations are significant to warrant official action and that is the purpose of this letter. I noticed that grass and weeds are beginning to grow around trees and in the
sidewalks located on your property. Please take the time to remove these weeds and grass; I, your neighbors and others will greatly appreciate it."
Phew! Dodged that bullet. And actually they haven't bothered us since, but those first few weeks without a lawnmower (lent by our fabulous real estate agent) and a weed whacker (really cheapo model that really doesn't quite do the job) were real nail-biters. Were we going to get another letter? Would there be "official action?"

As a sidenote, I'm quite puzzled by my relationship to our lawn. I had thought that I would want to just grow it long - first because of my organic farmer tendencies and second to protest the hegemony of suburban lawn culture. Instead, I'm curiously pleased by its appearance after it has been mowed. (Kind of like my husband after he gets his locks shorn.) It's so satisfying somehow. In the end, I think I'm looking forward to replacing it with trees, flower beds, and a vegetable and herb garden.

Unlike weeds, air quality appears to be a community asset that is deemed unimportant. When D. went to get the Pod inspected, he discovered that our county has chosen to override or ignore the state law requiring an emissions test to register a car.

So there's a lesson for you: keep your grass shorn for the public good, but don't worry about the air we breathe. Which would, ironically, be cleaner if grass were longer and could filter out more emissions!

Tuesday, August 23

Little Pink Houses

Were you starting to worry that we had lost all the Blush Pink in our house? Never fear...the upstairs bathroom is here. Whenever you need a fix of Pink. Like a Mary Kay-1950s-Barbie-princess dream.

Here's the what it looked like when we bought the house (make sure to click through to see the photos of the tub and floors):


Yes, we were dealing with the dreaded-by-all-homebuyers Pink Tiles. Friends and the internet tell me that this was a phenomenon that afflicted the nation in the 1950s - from Maine to Van Nuys.

My research indicated that the best way to deal with an element like this is to add other strong features to balance it, making sure to use a few pieces that incorporate both/all colors. The added complication of the all-grey fixtures meant that there are a good number of colors schemes that wouldn't work. Our general preference for green was out, same with a sunny yellow, or even turquoise. What colors do you think go with pink and grey? I go right to black, white, silver. So basically, instead of trying to fight the existing colors, we're going with what's there.

D. was busy being oriented to his new job and handling the tiling project, so this was my baby. We had agreed on using "Light French Grey" from the Classical/Colonial palette at Sherwin-Williams. It matched perfectly with the bathtub and toilet. I thought it was a little light, but it is a complementary color to the palette's "Aristocrat Peach," which is the exact color of our "pink" tile. I tested it, and it looked light but okay.

Check out the first coat:


As soon as I saw it, I knew it wasn't what I wanted. See the underside of the dropped ceiling: I didn't paint it, it's white, but you can barely tell the difference from the grey. I wanted a rich, dark grey that was strong enough to draw attention away from the pink.

I knew I was going to have to buy more paint anyway, because I had stupidly bought only a quart. I didn't have enough for another coat on the walls or for the bottom of the vanity.

So I made a split-second, executive decision to switch colors. Okay, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to say that I think my quick decision to abandon "Light French Gray" was influenced by the fact that I had been seriously considering an alternative color that was significantly darker: "Whetstone" by Martha Stewart Signature.

Off I went to Sherwin Williams to get a gallon of that, then hustled to get a coat of "Whetstone" up. Here's what D. saw when he got home that night:


I was really happy with it. The cool of the grey perfectly complements the warmth of the pink. The thing is that the first color matched the places on the tub and toilet where the light hit them, but the second color matched the shadow areas. So really neither was wrong, it was just a matter of the effect I wanted.

Another benefit was that I had an anti-mildew additive included in the second paint. I bleached out the patches of mildew above the shower, plus painted over with Kilz primer. But I feel safer with the additive, though I also think we need to add an exhaust fan. I hope it goes as smoothly as at Reviving the Colonial.

I'll post progress as we decorate with shower curtain, bathmats, accessories, and art, but for now, here's the completed paint job:


When D. realized that it would cost less than $50 to put in a new floor (42 square-feet multiplied by 98-cent vinyl tile), he agreed to consider the project. Yay! Because the yellow, white, and grey flecked linoleum wasn't working for me. We checked out the options for at Lowe's and brought home four possibilities:


From left to right:
1) a smokey grey faux stone with a peachy-pink secondary tone, very matte finish, Armstrong but one of their less durable products, and costing only 78 cents per square foot,
2) faux grey and white marble, very high shine and a beveled edge, ended up looking more grey in our bathroom than in the store, the standard 98 cents a pop,
3) higher-end Armstrong "Terraza" faux stone, darker grey and only a hint of pink, more sheen than #1 and has a mortar effect, warranted for 25 years and less than a buck each, and
4)this was a stretch, but I like to test everything. A white and grey industrial look, same price: 98 cents.

Feel free to submit your thoughts. We really debated over #1 vs. #3. For now, the front-runner is #1, and not even because it is 20 percent cheaper:


I'm concerned I'm making the same mistake as with the paints, and that darker will be better. But the smokey grey is softer and just seems to go so perfectly with our colors. As if there were millions of people out there looking for floors to match their Aristocrat Peach, Ballerina Pink, Rose Dust, and every other shade of pink bathrooms.

Actually, this ad was one of my inspirations, and I'm considering getting it framed to hang in the bathroom

That's my philosophy: embrace what you got. Fight pink with pink!

Sunday, August 21

Grout or Stout

I knew that something was a bit fishy on Friday afternoon. At the end of a long few days of orientation, a group of fellow faculty members and civilians were going out for beer at a local brewpub and we had our standing invitation to join. However, instead of joining them we opted to keep working on the tiling in the bathroom. Our logic, if trading stout for grout can ever be considered logical, was that there's always time for socializing later but if we don't shower soon then nobody would want us to join them for drinks. (OK, we do have a second shower, so our rationalizations don't make complete sense. But work with us.)

Over the course of the weekend I did finish the tiling project (with one very small exception, which we will get to momentarily) and K. got the rest of the bathroom about 99% done. We also managed to make it to UU church, Lowes, and The Forty Year Old Virgin, and I got a haircut that will hopefully look presentable to my students and the other people I have to see in the world as opposed to the scragglyness that I have let it get to while I was in Revivalizing-All-The-Time mode.

And now, some pictures of the evolution of our shower. We understand that many of our readers have been unclear about what the project was, so hopefully these photos will make it make sense:





And the finished project:


Well, the "finished" project. You can see in the picture on the right that we are short one bullnose tile on the trim on top. We're not really sure how this happened -- if it was an arithmetic error in the store, miscounting the number of tiles, losing one along the way, or a rounding error based on assuming tiles are 4" instead of 4 1/4" (I'm banking on the last option). In any event, we will be headed back to Lowes to take care of that, but in the meantime we are ready for the plumber to show up tomorrow morning to plumb the shower (and build our laundry center), and we will at long last have a fully functional bathroom in time for me to shower for the first day of classes.

Saturday, August 20

Floors and Flores

The Carpet Cleaner delivered the rugs yesterday, and it was so exciting. With the addition of the oriental-style rug, the dining room is ready for use:


The rug is polyester or synthetic whatever, but it sure cleans up well. For the low low price of (seriously, get this!) $25, it's like I have a brand new rug. I found it in a house I lived in way before I met D. and have dragged it around ever since. I had it cleaned once years ago, and I think he never knew what it looked like clean. Also, in the big cities, it cost four times as much to get it cleaned - and they didn't pick up and deliver at home.

We still have to hang art, and we're on the lookout for a nice antique hutch, but no more yucky rug from the POs. Yay! As soon as our rug went down, I started planning to have guests over for dinner.

The vintage hooked rugs aren't as sparkly, but that's good. I told the rug guy that I wanted to keep the patina, but now they smell fresh and clean. I put them into the back guest bedroom:


I think a nice cast iron bed-frame, a green-and-white quilt, and some pink cabbage-rose curtains would go perfectly, don't you?

While I'm writing about floors, I wanted to show a few highlights from the upstairs refinishing work. There are a fair amount of nail holes, which I think look pretty cool:


There's a pretty big variation between the floorboards that had been painted brown (left) and those that had not (right):


Which led to a few glitches.

Before - the outline of the old walls and closets when this was two separate bedrooms.

Old Floor



We're just regarding that as a feature - not a bug - of having old floors.

Speaking of bugs, the "country life puts you more in touch with the natural cycle of the seasons" department reports that, one day last week, butterflies started showing up in our garden. Apparently, the monarchs are migrating this time of year - who knew? Even though our butterfly bushes are pathetic under-performers, probably desperate for some compost and a good trimming, they still seem to attract monarchs and other butterflies I can't identify:


In other garden news, the gargantuan (eight feet and growing in every direction) volunteer squash plant has been producing flores de calabaza for about a week now. One of my favorite foods, fiori di zucca was one of my food revelations on my first trip to Italy. This week, we've eaten them in quesadillas, sauteed with squash, cilantro, and lime juice, and in pasta primavera with zucchini, red bell pepper and basil. I haven't even gotten to the really delicious and simple soup you can make with them! Today, I harvested the first fruit of the vine:


Joining the squash and bell peppers in bloom, one of the tomato plants in the wine barrel planter has put out a few tiny flowers:


I don't hold much hope for any tomatoes before frost, but it's fun to watch the plant's progress. Thankfully, the basil plant has not gone to flower, but just continues to bush out, when I'm not hacking it back to make bruschetta.

The farmer's market continues to be a great and inexpensive source for peaches, tomatoes, peppers, and corn:


And we just keep heading out to the yard after hard days of house work and grilling those goodies up.

So basically, life is good at Casa de Revivalized - inside and out.

Friday, August 19

Math Stars

I've spent most of the last three days at the college, being oriented and learning all kinds of policies and meeting administrators and the like. Meanwhile, K. has been a total Math Star. Yes, I know that the phrase the kids today -- or at least the ironic hipsters today -- typically call each other is "Rock Stars", but as much as we respect the accomplishments of Sir Paul McCartney, we think it's important to emphasize academics. Or something silly like that.

But I digress. The point is that while I have been on campus, K. has been working on the upstairs bathroom. She has been painting and designing and doing all sorts of things while I have been sitting in a variety of conference rooms. So today, when I got home from learning about all my different options for insurances and other french benefits, I got back to work on tiling the upper half of the shower.

Now, I must admit that as a mathematician it would have made me very happy to use Penrose Tiles to tile the shower, or at the very least some of the Escher tiles that I like to teach my student about. But no, cheapness prevailed and we wouldnt even spring for colored squares, and we are tiling the top half of the shower with white 4" square tiles that cost us 14 cents a pop. This evening I got all but the top row on the walls -- we need to swing back by Lowes to pick up some bull nose tiles for the top row -- but this weekend I will get to grout and then my part of the bathroom will be as finished as K.'s walls. As far as an overall design scheme, we opted to aggressively accentuate the grey fixtures by painting the untiled walls grey, and keep with that theme for a rug and the shower curtain. When it is all finished it will look very fifties, but hopefully also very good. But even if it doesn't, we will post pictures.

Thursday, August 18


One of the quirks of Case de Revivalized is the mixed-up appliance situation. It had two kitchens, but only one refrigerator. Maybe to make up for that fact, there was a much-larger-than-we-need, standalone freezer. The washer and dryer that we contracted to come with the house ended up going with the Previous Tenant, and there wasn't even the faint whiff of a hookup for a dishwasher. Bottom line: we've stepped back into the 1950s Housewife's dream.

To add a little color to this tale, let me remind you that the sole refrigerator was Blush Pink:


(To match the stove, duh!) It was also located in the Second Floor Kitchen, which we want to use as a Laundry/Crafts/Utility Room. After much backing and forthing, we decided that the laundry center would best be placed where the refrigerator stood. It required the least demolition of cabinets and allowed for easy venting of the dryer.

What little demolition was required wasn't done prettily. I'm kind of a hack, I guess. The problem is that I don't really understand carpentry, especially the kind of well-made, hand-built, custom cabinetry in our kitchens. I keep expecting it to be 90s-style screw-it-in modular. But it's not. Here's the end result:


And here's a little tiny bit of old newspaper or wallpaper I uncovered:


Hardly worth posting really. For the record, I did find more of that "classic 40s minty green" behind the upper cabinets. It seems like that's going to be the Revivalized version of Fixer Upper Pink.

So after preparing the site and agreeing to a usurious charge from a plumber/handyman, we trundled off to Lowe's (voted Best Appliance Store in the local paper, where we had a pleasant and satisfying experience with buying our refrigerator) and chose a front-loading washer and dryer. We specifically had a lovely conversation with the lovely Andre about how these needed to be delivered to the second floor rear, and he assured us that it was the delivery guys' problem and we shouldn't worry another moment. Andre is very soothing - a good trait in someone whose job it is to talk you out of thousands of dollars.

On the assigned date, the delivery guys showed up to do their job. Without any equipment. Hoist to get to the second floor rear balcony, which is just off the kitchen - NOPE. Blankets to wrap the appliances as they go up stairs - NOPE. Pretty much, the only tool they had was a measuring tape. Well, you know what they say about using the only tool you have, no matter the problem. Tape in hand, the guys told me that no how were the washer and dryer coming up the back stairs. "Only 25 inches, ma'am. Not gonna happen."

I admit, it was early in the morning, so I wasn't at my friendliest. I stubbornly refused to let them move the 400-pound appliances up my beloved front stairs and over my brand-newly refinished wood-floored hallway. Again with the backing and the forthing, and now with the calling of their manager, and the calling of the Lowe's Appliance Manager. (Andre was on vacation all week, even though he told us he would come right over and put the whole thing on his back and carry it up the back stairs if the delivery guys give us and duff, here's my home phone number if you need it. Our confidence in Andre is shaken, to say the least.) The Appliance Manager told us Lowe's would be liable for any damage to our intact original 80-year-old oak staircase, banisters, and newel post, our freshly painted walls, or our big-money floor refinishing job.

So D. made the tough call: take it up the front stairs.

Here's what I think: I think making these guys wait an hour and do a little dance with their supervisors etc. made them be more careful. Because, in the end, there were only a few small scuffs on a few stair treads. But do you think they would have been so careful if I had just let them do it their way in the first place without any rigamarole? Neither do I. I don't think standing there watching them, wincing with each step, hurt either.

The appliances are now in situ, waiting for the usurious plumber/handyman to take his sweet time and show up a week after originally scheduled, if then:


And the old Pink Beast is gone:

The End

We wanted her to meet a better, more dignified end than that. At one point, we had even hoped to find her a new home, with owners who would lovingly restore her and happily pay her astronomical electric bills. But the one prospect we had fell through, and after the incident, our affection waned. We just wanted the hassle of dealing with her to end.

It was bittersweet for me to see her go, especially Primo Levi-style like that, over the back porch railing. I felt she deserved better. So I ended up saving thetwo, solid steel produce drawers. I'll find some way to reuse them. Maybe as organizer boxes in the kitchen or laundry room, or maybe I'll just plant some flowers in them.

Blush pink, of course, in her memory.

Wednesday, August 17

House Tour - Second Floor

First Floor

Hallway: The peacock green, while a nice color, does nothing for making this space seem welcoming or spacious.

Bedroom 1: We are planning to make this a library and home office for D. We are hoping to build-in bookshelves modeled after the amazing shelves at Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle. We're picturing two comfortable reading chairs and a bridge lamp in the bay, plus a lovely rolltop desk that D. inherited from his grandmother. Maybe a deep red on the walls?

Bedroom 2: Current plan is to use this as our bedroom, and we hope to upgrade to a king-sized bed as soon as possible. No style discussions yet - maybe a bit Scandinavian/Modern. We're a little bit flummoxed by this enormous space with no furniture in it.

Bedroom 3: We're calling this a dressing room, and we may put dressers and mirrors in here. Alternate uses - if the open doorway is closed up - might be a guest room, nursery, or home office for K. I love the grey, and it inspires me to think of Art Deco-streamlined decor. My personal motto is actually taken from the Art Deco movement: "No modernity without tradition, no tradition without modernity."

Bedroom 4: Because this bedroom has a closet and is near the bathroom, we are planning to use this as a guest room. We might go with a shabby chic-Swedish country white look in here, using the hooked rug from the previous owners.

Upstairs Kitchen/Utility Room: We are installing a stacked laundry center here, and I'm going to use the room as storage for my crafts materials, yarn, and related books. I have dreams of a new cork floor in here, topped off with some shaggy chic-70s retro brown walls.

Upstairs Bathroom: What can I say? It's pink, it's small, and we're going to make the best of it.

Cedar Closet: With some new Ikea lighting, this should be a very useful feature.

House Tour - First Floor

Exterior Front: This needs a paint job pronto. D. has an inordinate fondness for blue houses, though I predict we'll go with a sage green. It's our color.

Foyer: We painted this that sage green we love so much. We're a little torn between whether this will be a showcase room (requiring knockout furnishings) or a high-traffic room (where we can store our shoes and mail and such).

Front Parlor: This room, now a deep green, is going to be focused on entertaining with flexible seating, music, and arts and crafts collected from our travels.

Dining Room: The knockout orange we chose could go Victorian, Mexican, or Tuscan. Our dining set is country oak. In the end, the room will likely be a jumble. "Eclectic," I think is what they call the style.

Den/Side Parlor: The highest priority is that this room be comfortable and relaxing. I want to go sleeker, with a 70s twist (that means a white flokati rug). D's skeptical, to say the least.

Downstairs Bathroom: Ah, mauve, how you speak of the 1950s. How blithely you set off the peach fixtures. Oh, how ugly is the rug. Inspired by a Walmart paint chip, of all things, we're going to use a green to set off the mauve. Let's hope it works!

Kitchen: For now, in the absence of the wherewithal to totally re-do the kitchen, we are going to work with what we have (lovely cabinets). I feel drawn to a rustic look in here - maybe a Mexican Country vibe. We love Mexico and Mexican food, so a bit of wrought iron and Talavera pottery would fit in just fine.

Second Floor

The Exception That Proves The Rule

Today is my first day of work -- and yes, I am up at the crack of dawn due to first-day-of-school jitters, even though classes don't start for another week and a half and today is just a day of "orientation" -- so yesterday I did what any sane person would do on their last day of freedom before starting a new job: I tackled one last home renovation project.

Everyone knows that doing demolition work is always much easier than doing more constructive work. That is what people always say, and that has certainly been our experience -- it takes an hour to remove wallpaper, but many hours to paint the walls, for example. But yesterday, I found the exception that proves the rule in our tiling project.

As the picture in that post indicates, before we could tile the top half of the shower, we had to remove a single layer of bull nose tile to make the tiles be flush. No problem, right? Well, not in our experience. It took us close to four hours (though admittedly, there were other minor distractions) to remove that layer of tile and the mortar underneath it. Some of the tools we used include grout saws and crowbars and utility knives and wire brushes and screwdrivers and hammers. But, after working the better part of the day on that, we finally got it all off.

Compared to that, the constructive part of the job was relatively easy. I'll post pictures later on, but it took me less than an hour to hang the tile board on the wall, and tiling itself was fast and easy. There is still some work to be done on the tiling, not to mention the grouting and the cleaning of the grout. But tiling was indeed every bit as easy as many of you told us it would be. I just wish you had warned us about the removal of previously existing tiles.

Tuesday, August 16

Catch Us If You Can

We're busy with so many things - big and small, but all different - that it's hard to blog about it. I'll cover as much as I can.

The biggest development is that our house has really become a home. We've moved upstairs to sleep (and the noxious fumes from the polyurethane seem to have given me some killer allergies) and unpacked our clothes into a closet (what an invention!).

Someday soon, we'll have an operating shower on the second floor and a laundry center too. The whole two-story lifestyle thing is still fun, though we really don't spend much time up there. There's no furniture, for one thing. Of course, that's all the better to see the gorgeous wood floors.

Downstairs, there's been a complete transformation. D's parents arrived bearing a truckload (literally) of gifts and heirlooms. The functionality and comfort of our home has quintupled. It's so nice to have guest, chat, relax, explore the area. Life seems so much more slow-paced and relaxing when you're not running a restoration marathon. Here's a few shots, D. will post more later.

The Dining Room now has an actual table and chairs to dine on:


A view of the table's base. This set is from D's grandmother:


Also from his grandmother is this cool Castro convertible table, with a nice smooth dark finish. First it's a coffee table:


Then, with a flick of the wrist, it's a dining table for four:


I've already wiped off that dust, and it looks brand-new. Unlike the kitchen table I picked up for FREE off someone's front yard:


It's perfectly serviceable for now and goes well with the 50s kitchen, but it's got peeling veneer, rusting legs, and a few stains on the top. Also in the kitchen, we're experimenting with cabinet hardware:


The knob on the left and hinge on the bottom are the kitchen's original forged iron style hardware. The hinge on the bottom is hammered-copper style and poached from the second kitchen, which unfortunately has pulls instead of knobs so we bought a 98-cent version from Lowe's.

I think the copper hinge looks good, because I want to create less contrast with the wood. The knob, however, feels terrible. It's uncomfortable on your fingers and feels ten times cheaper than its actual cost. Any comments? In the absence of any information about our larger kitchen vision, I don't expect many.

We're also working on colors for the den, kitchen, and both bathrooms. The latter are especially important because we do have to buy shower curtains soon, but also especially tough because we're working with so many existing colors (tiles, fixtures, towels). What I can show you is a test patch for Eddie Bauer's Bungalow Gold in the den:


No real decision on it yet. We'll get back to you.

Another inchstone is a working front doorbell:


Pretty ugly, huh? I was replacing two old doorbells with one, and it was a pain. I'm no electrician, but I think this thing is going to blow up any minute now. It's hot to the touch - eek! However, I did manage to rig it so that it rings both upstairs and downstairs bells at the same time.

We're also excited because I learned in one of my networking meetings about a local program to help us pay for exterior restoration and repair. This month, we've been focused on what we needed to do to make the house livable, but pretty soon we have to turn our attention to what will keep it sound. The exterior paint is in pretty bad shape (I got especially worried when I noticed that this is the condition of one of our window sills) and in a very dull all-white. The bricks and mortar look 95 percent fine, but there are a few spots that need attention. The bottom line is that the funding program might provide us with a zero interest loan for up to $4,000 worth of work, plus an additional grant, if we qualify. This could really make the difference between a nice job, possibly even guided by an architect, and a frugal job we can manage ourselves. Either way, that door frame around the bell will get painted up nicely at some point.

Lastly, we now have seating in the living room, however mismatched:


That's one of the few rugs that we have in the house at the moment, and it's thanks to D's mom. So in the meantime, we're stocking up on "floor protection devices:"


Here's a tip: you might want to buy stock in felt.