Tea with Virginia

It has been a very long time since I have added anything to this blog.  Our construction team finished up the contracted projects, packed up their tools, and moved the trailer off of our driveway to their next client.  We settled into the daily routine of life. Blog writing was overshadowed by other things; however, there are still many stories to write and pictures to share.  So, let’s get to it!

I have been spending some time trying to uncover information on the families who have lived in this house over the last 100 years.  I am not really sure what I will find, but I feel so fortunate to have been able to connect with Virginia who lived here with her parents and siblings in the 1930s.  She lived her from 1936 to 1940 during the years she attended Fresno High School.  After high school she went on to college and then to medical school where she completed her training to become a pediatrician. During her time away at college, she spent summers in this house.  Although her father died in 1969, her mother remained in the house until 1971 when she moved to an assisted living facility in 1971.  The house may have been empty but furnished until her death in 1977.

I had the privilege of spending part of an afternoon, way back in February, over a cup of tea, with both Virginia and her daughter Joan.  Virginia is now in her 90s, but is full of life, and I think she enjoyed seeing the old house, and she shared some memories as she walked through the main floor.  She told me that their family had added the pink pool bathroom off of the library as well as the pool.  She remembered the beautiful fountain/pond outside the living room.  She also remembered the GE icebox being in the back porch when they moved in (1936).

She shared that her mother always had the best of everything.  In fact, Virginia commented that the kitchen sink had a garbage disposal before almost everyone else they knew. With the invention of this gadget in 1927 and patented in 1933, it would have been a cutting edge appliance when they lived in this house.

She had fond memories of grand dinner parties where the guests were entertained in the living room. The thick folding doors separating the living and dining rooms would remained closed until right before dinner was to be served. At that point the maid would open the doors with much fanfare to reveal an elaborately decorated table with a decadent meal waiting to be served to the guests.

She also provided some clarification regarding the connection to the author, John Steinbeck. According to Virginia, John’s older sister, Elizabeth, lived in the house before Virginia’s family lived here.  It was during this time that Elizabeth’s young son, John drowned in a canal or irrigation ditch nearby.  He was only 3 years old, and after this tragic event, Elizabeth had a hard time staying in this house.  They moved out shortly after, and Virginia’s family moved in.  Virginia did say that John Steinbeck would visit his sister in the house and continued to visit Virginia’s family.  I like to think that maybe he found inspiration during his visits and spent some time writing in the backyard.

I will always cherish the time Virginia gave me that afternoon.  She is a wonderful wealth of information, and I am glad I had the chance to hear about some of the history of the house first hand. I know this house has so many stories, and I would love to uncover more of them.Virginia and Joan

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It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

This colonial revival house begs to be decorated for Christmas.  Not the type of people to go over the top crazy when it comes to decorating combined with a lack of time available to commit to that endeavor, we have kept it simple this year.  However, with a goal of being warm and welcoming, I think we have achieved our purpose.

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A real tree

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Stockings were hung…
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We hosted the Dove-Tail company Christmas party

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Room by Room – the Great Room

A wonderful feature of this old house is the grand living room. It is huge!  Several comments have been made about pushing the furniture against the wall and holding a full-fledged dance party.  It could happen.

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In the process of restoring the floors.

This room has a grand old fireplace with intricate wood detail and two sets of French doors (one to the front porch and one to the back yard). We have not used the fireplace as we do not know the condition of the chimney and there are very few wood burn days in the Central Valley.  The wood trim and the crown molding continue in this room and add to its character.

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The wood floor in this room is also spectacular – old growth timber, quarter cut, gorgeous patterns. When Tim, our floor restorer, saw the floor in this room, he said not to let anyone else touch it – he wanted to be the one to bring it back to life.  We all agree that he did a great job!

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One of many designs in the floor

We elected not to penetrate the ceiling to install built in light for this room. This meant less holes (and less expense).  However, now we need to add more floor and table lamps as the lighting is just a little too subdued.

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Minor wall penetrations for this room!

There was no wallpaper in this room (thank goodness!), but it was painted a washed out shade of yellow and the crown molding had a wide blue stripe.  As  result, the fine wood trim and molding were not well showcased. In addition, the bold stripe in the crown molding made the ceiling feel lower.

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Painting the trim in the room would have been a huge job, so we cleaned it up a bit and decided to paint the walls a shade of latte. This color is enough to provide some contrast and really highlights the trim.

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We have enjoyed hanging pictures in this room (and in the dining room and entry as well) using the original picture rail molding.  We purchased picture rail hooks and wire, which allow us to hang pictures without making holes in the plaster walls.  If we want to change the location of a picture, we can just slide the picture rail hook along the molding.  Cool.

 

Room by Room – Kitchen and Dining

The kitchen, butler’s pantry, and dining room all received fresh paint in the renovating process. The kitchen and butler’s pantry were covered with the same wallpaper that had graced the breakfast nook.  This wallpaper was next to impossible to remove.  We did get most of it off in the kitchen; however, in the butler’s pantry, we ended up just using some primer and covering it with paint.  I was a bit nervous about the bolder color (ryegrass) that we chose, but now that it is on the walls, I really like it.  A new light fixture to replace the wooden/brass ceiling fan was a final touch.

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The dining room’s once pale pink walls were brightened up with the same shade of blue as in the entry. Besides painting and refinishing the floors, the dining room was also subjected to multiple penetrations as part of the electrical upgrade.  We really wanted to keep the original chandelier and wall sconces; however, when the fixtures were reattached, we discovered the very old wires within these fixtures caused major shorts in the circuits.  The sconces are still in the process of being painted and wired, and we are still hopeful that we can find someone to re-wire the main chandelier. Stay tuned.

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We had the privilege of hosting 20 plus family and friends for Thanksgiving 2016, so one final set of pix!

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Room by Room: The Front Entry and Stairwell

We love the grand entry of this old house.  From the outside, the large front porch and red door flanked by stained glass windows and lamp-post light fixtures welcomes one upon arrival.

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Shortly after moving in, we realized that although the original mail slot, allowing the mail to be directly deposited onto the inside floor, was quaint, it was also rather impractical.  The size was barely wide enough to fit a business size letter.  Most days, the mail carrier’s only option was to leave the mail on the cement beside the pillar.  Looking ahead to cooler days, a windy or rainy weather would not bode well for any stack of mail left there.

As a result, we found a larger, more durable and secure box that we were able to mount on the wall next to the door.  We tried to find one that would match the characteristics of a colonial revival home.  We are very happy with our locked box which accommodates larger pieces of mail. And, rumor has it the mail carrier is much happier being able to actually put our mail into something rather than leaving it out on the ground.

 

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Once inside the house, the most extensive change to the entry was the addition of lights! Originally there were no lights in the entry or the stairwell, which made for a somewhat dark welcome.  We added an overhead light right inside the door and another light in the stairwell.  Needless to say, this brightened things up immensely.  Again, we looked for something that would honor the colonial revival architecture of the house. We we able to find coordinating fixtures in this flush mount for the entry and a pendent for the stairwell).

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Another noticeable change we made to the entry was to refinish the floors and add color.  The faux marble wallpaper and yellow trim have been replaced by Sherwin-William’s “meditative blue” on the walls and “alabaster” for the trim.  Painting the entire trim one color really highlights it and provides a nice contrast to the walls.  The detail of the stained glass windows are also highlighted nicely with these colors.

Alabaster was also used on the spindles of the banister and beige (Sherwin William’s killiam biege) was used for the walls of the stairwell. This lighter color compliments the blue of the entry, contrasts the darker shade of the wood landing and stairs, and make the stairwell feel more open.

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Room by Room: The Breakfast Nook

The wallpaper throughout the house is slowly being replaced by fresh paint! It is great to see the transformation of each room.  The south and west-facing breakfast nook is a cozy space right off the kitchen. A set of french doors connect it directly to the dining room.  Two walls boast original double hung windows with beautiful wood trim.  A wonderful wooden inset under one of the windows could serve as a window seat or a great place for plants.  The west window has old fashioned plantation shutters that are in really great shape!  The breakfast nook is complete with a weathered tile floor in a shade of blue-green. I just love the character of this room!

Now when we first moved the walls in this room were covered in wallpaper. Shelves had been added around the perimeter for knick-knacks, and the light fixture was quite dated.

The first thing we did was remove the plywood shelves that ran across the top of the windows.  This was followed by several long sessions of wallpaper removal. This seemed to be a futile task as this wallpaper, which happened to be the same as that in the kitchen, did NOT budge.  We final gave up when the the Dove-Tail crew said they could put primer over the wallpaper.  Thank goodness!

First the electrical work needed to be completed, and then the painting began. First we needed to pick the paint color blue, green, beige.  Such a hard decision.

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Primed and ready for paint.

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And the finished product!

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I foresee many cups of tea (or coffee, or wine) being consumed with friends in this space!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room by Room: The Library

Like the sun room, the library did not require a lot of paint.  In fact, no holes in the walls meant that we could preserve the vintage wallpaper.  We left the bookshelves blue and refreshed the room by refinishing the floors and repainting the ceiling white (covered over that dusty rose shade). This really brightens up the room and highlights the old-fashioned light fixture, which we really love!

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