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.



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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What were they thinking? Part 1

The Kitchen Sink:

So what issue of any design magazine thought this was a good idea?  Yes, I am talking about that teeny tiny sink in the corner.

Sink 1

You may think, a small rinsing sink or perhaps a place to wash dirty hands when the large sink is full of clean dishes.  Or, a way to rinse soapy dishes while preventing the large sink from overflowing with the water running from the tap (aka faucet – my people call it a tap). Yes, all of those could be potentially interesting uses for a very tiny triangular sink.  However, the design minds behind this particular sink in this particular house tasked it with the function of being the garburator sink (aka garbage disposal – my people call it a garburator ).

We thought – okay, we can give that a try.  We attempted to rinse plates before putting them into the dishwasher.  Half of the food scraps ended up in the large sink which then needed to be fished out so they wouldn’t block the drain.  With dinner plates being almost twice the size of this gem of a sink, other scraps washed right off the plate and onto the counter top. In addition, I can’t count how many times we (well some of us) completely forgot that the large sink didn’t have the garburator and rinsed out that oatmeal bowl.

Well, today I was very excited when I came home and saw that the garburator had been moved to the more logical drain of the large sink.  The little sink is still there and its purpose is still to be determined; however, it is no longer the point of frustration it once was.

Sink 2

Ah yes, the little things can still make an impact even in the midst of a very large project.

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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