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.







A real tree


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





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.

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!

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.

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.


Sun Room – Check!

Fortunately the sun room was not covered with wallpaper, and the existing paint was in pretty good condition.  We were able to match the paint, so after the electrical work was completed, it was relatively easy to get this room done!

Before and during:

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We added a new ceiling fan and mounted the television on the wall. We even have pictures on the walls. A good feeling!

One space down – 15 plus to go.


The Paint Process

Well we have been in renovation mode for nearly 4 months now, and we have been living in the middle of it for almost 3.5 months.  A layer of plaster dust covering every surface including floors is just a given.

Updating all of the electrical is now, for the most part, completed.  A huge job that has taken months but so much of it is behind the scenes (or in the case of home renovations, behind the walls) and remains unappreciated.  New switches and some new lights are all we see of the great lengths of wire threaded through walls representing hours and hours of labor. But, now that most of the holes are filled in and patched (and wallpaper has been stripped), it is time for paint!

Unlike the electrical, paint is right there in plain sight covering walls and ceilings.  Nothing is hidden when it comes to paint. Nothing. Is. Hidden. Therefore, one must take special care when choosing paint colors.  That chosen color will be up front and center catching our gaze every time we look up. No pressure… Needless to say this process has taken time – lots of time. Starting with the paint chip or sample consisting of a very small patch of color and trying to envision a whole wall surface covered in one particular color can be intimidating.  Realizing that the paint color in one room needs to coordinate with the color in the next room and any room beyond that remains in your line of sight, can be a bit overwhelming. Matching a color to existing trim, floor tones, and floor textures are all part of the goal to make the colors happy together (Connie Enns-Rempel).  In addition, a color on a paint chip might look perfect until you get the sample paint and start slathering it on the wall. A color on a paint chip might be just that shade of blue until you hold it up to some existing trim where suddenly it has too much gray, or green, or yellow, or brown, or red.  A slight variation in lighting can also change that once fresh green into a shade of slime or swamp.

So the last few weeks have involved the placing of many swatches of paint colors on the walls.  On almost every wall. Many colors on the same wall. Many walls. Many colors. Much paint. Paint everywhere. I would not bill myself a decorating guru at any level, so I am thankful for input of others.  Our friend Connie Enns-Rempel has been kind enough to bring in her color samples and look at paint chips on multiple walls in multiple rooms under multiple lights and shadows.  We have also polled visitors and family members.

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Stay tuned…we will see how this turns out, and we hope our colors will all be happy together.

In the Zone

We did move into this house with the understanding that we needed to get some critical work done. When we bought the house, we knew the first order of business would be to replace the electrical in order to meet insurance requirements and safety standards. Yes, all the electrical. Goodbye knob and tube, hello up to code standard wiring.

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Although much of that work is behind the scenes, it affects every part of the house and those who are in it. We have been in the house for a couple of weeks, so I thought I would give you a glimpse of living in the zone (construction zone that is) where we are living under a constant layer of fine dust (cutting through plaster has a way of doing that).

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Being at work all day we never know what to expect when we come home. We’re never quite sure what lights will work and what lights won’t or where a new hole in the wall or ceiling might appear. It wasn’t my favorite week when the dishwasher circuit was off. But, it was a day of awesomeness when I found out they had hooked up the washer and dryer !!

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To be honest, I don’t think anyone has enjoyed the no air conditioning holding pattern we have been in especially on those days when it has been over 100 F.  When we first moved in (108 F), the air conditioning had been disconnected due to electrical work.  Then after deciding to replace some asbestos-lined ducts, it’s been out of commission well into this latest heat wave (101 F today). At least we have a back up “swamp” cooler that provides some relief when the temps drop a bit (e.g. late evening). Good news though – tomorrow we should return to the land of the breeze and the home of the cool.

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With all this hole cutting, soon to be wall patching and painting, and floor refinishing going on, we can’t get too settled.  With most of our furniture in the garage, our boxes in storage, and our utility room/office not ready yet, we are are not completely unpacked.  During the first couple of weeks, we didn’t have access to our bedrooms (floor refinishing going on), so we slept downstairs in the sunroom and library.  Everything needs to remain in the middle of the rooms, so walls can be accessed for ongoing work.  As the electrical work moves upstairs, we may be moving back downstairs – that’s still to be determined.IMG_6268-1

Well, there is no lack of adventure while living in the zone.  We have front row seats to the progress going on around us.  We are also blessed to have the amazing crew from Dovetail Remodeling ( who we see bright and early every morning. Steve, Jim, Josh, and Justin work hard each day trying to figure out this old house and its many mysteries.  They are becoming very familiar with its nooks, crannies, and many construction idiosyncrasies.  This house has, in a very short period, thrown its share of construction curve balls, but the guys have risen to the occasion every time and haven’t struck out yet!

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Outdoor Spaces

We have spent a lot of time in these outdoor spaces over the past couple of weeks or so – trimming, cutting, shaping, pruning, picking… (our gardener, Emiliano Lopez has helped too). We have identified two grapefruit trees, an orange tree, and a small kumquat tree.  A happy find for citrus lovers.

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Phil has already made a claim on a large patch beside the garage which he has designated project “raised garden”.   Visions of tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, squash, potatoes, snow peas, carrots, and hot peppers are dancing in his head.


This interesting water feature is on its way out – eventually.  We are envisioning a cozy fire pit with comfy chairs here instead.  Lots of dreaming and planning …

Pond? Fountain?

When we are not trimming, cutting, shaping, pruning, or picking, the backyard has proven to provide a spot of relaxation and quiet.  We have taken some time to soak in and enjoy the tranquil surroundings.

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The large trees house a melodious chorus of enthusiastic birds who never seem to tire of singing. We even have our own forest-like corner in the front yard. And, every 15 minutes we are treated to the chiming bells of St. Therese which is a block away.

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If you’re in the neighborhood, come by and sit awhile!


Doors Galore

This house not only has a lot of walls, it also has many, many doors: solid wood doors, doors with windows, interior double French doors, exterior double French doors, an interior single French door, a swinging door, thick folding doors…  By the numbers, there are seven exterior doors (three regular doors and four double French doors). That includes the standard front door and basic back door (both red, by the way).

Interior doors total 20! That makes 27 exterior and interior doors!! Talk about a lot of hinges!  Four of the interior doors are double French doors and there is one single French door.

The swinging door from the kitchen is a fun one – think restaurant-style.


The windowed door from the back porch to the kitchen and the basement door are full of character as well.  Each of the three panels of the heavy folding doors separating the living room from the dining room are approximately 2.5 inches thick.  When folded together, they are almost nine inches thick. This reflects the thickness of the door moulding on that interior wall.

Of course, with all of these doors, a variety of door knobs can be found.  I love the old fashioned glass ones!

Now if we can just keep these doors and knobs functional in order to preserve all that character!