Monday, November 24, 2008

House with a sense of humor

I'm on vacation this week. And Ken will be too, after about Tuesday. So we're spending the week: a) hosting Thanksgiving for great friends and b) doing house projects. My idea of a great vacation.

One item Ken's had on his to-do list for a couple of years is to figure out what to do about storm windows. Last year, he made a prototype of an interior storm with someone's old exterior storm - but it wasn't entirely satisfactory and we don't have enough of them. So, based on this great idea, he built a prototype plastic internal storm this weekend - then we tweaked the design and built about 5 more. They are working AWESOME - they keep out the cold air that bled in through little un-weatherproofable spots like the sash pulleys. I think we have about, oh, 20 more to go - but we're in assembly-line mode now, so they should go quick. Thanks to some cull lumber, we think they only are costing about $9/window on average, which is about as low as we could hope. Especially when custom interior storms range $100-$250 and up per window.

Photos of his whole system later. But...

This morning, as I was measuring the next set of window openings, I closed the lids to the window seat and found this silly surprise:

Yes, that's a fuzzy pillow stuck to the window pane because condensation inside had turned to frost. We've never seen this before, but I suspect that keeping the lids against the window (with pillows shoved between) essentially insulated OUT that small space. Hee, hee. Later on, there was a little 'thud' as the pillow fell off. So, I guess we'll attack those windows with storms later tonight!

Speaking of silly, here's the latest from the upstairs guest room. I finished getting all the wallpaper off while Ken was ironing out the details of the storms, and scrubbed all the glue residue off the walls, finishing this morning. So, the room is ready for plaster repair, then we can finally cover up the ridiculous color scheme. That day can't come soon enough.

Final cruel joke: one wall (thankfully, only one small one) is made of old drywall of some sort, painted, then 2 coats of wallpaper. I made a huge mess of it stripping the paper, but we had already decided we'd better skimcoat it with our fake plaster trick, so joke's on you, wall!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chestnuts roasting on an, well-engineered, energy-efficient fire

How are we getting ready for the holidays? We're planning to have a quiet, travel-free, chaos-free holiday season, involving time off (for a change), some relaxing (new to us), and sitting by the new pellet stove. Oh, of course we'll be doing some work on the house (I for one can't sit still for more than a couple of hours).

The stove is getting installed today - supposedly - after the guys stood us up on Friday. That's OK, we didn't want a Friday-quality job anyways. But it is awfully annoying that the ONE time we have someone come & do some work instead of doing it ourselves, it's fraught with incompetence. The reason they didn't install it Friday was the guys in the truck "couldn't find the receipt with our address". Ummm, call the store and get the address? Or was that code for, "We're knocking off early today". Either way, ugh. It's gettin' cold and we want to sit by that fire.

Pellet stoves - and pellets - were a hot commodity in Maine this year. We had to whip out my old New York ways to get some attention at the stove shop, and then waited several months longer than expected for the stove. The company increased production by several hundred percent, but demand was truly insane. And then, people hoarded pellets - luckily we had some good advice and ordered ours very, very early - so we've got them now. Just waiting for the stove.

So, here's a photo of the fireplace in the living room, with the freshly-tiled hearth, as of this morning.

We'll see if I can post an after photo - with stove - here by tonight. (I'm writing this in the morning, and am oh-so-hopeful to have an after photo).

*** Breaking news: stove has been installed. It's just before noontime, and Ed & Chad just left, after installing the stove. Glad we didn't do it ourselves - apparently it weighed 500 lb! Barely fit through the door, too - they had to un-crate it in the driveway. Yes, those are flames in the stove! It didn't fit perfectly, so we'll probably do some adjustment - either moulding around the edge or chiseling out some brick, but, in the words of McLovin', "It's in!" ***

Now it will feel a lot like the holidays - and we've got snow predicted for early next week. Let it snow! Cocoa, stove, and nap. The ultimate holiday triple threat. Joy!

This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by SC Johnson’s Right@Home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Restorer's dictionary entry: POs

previous owner

Main Entry:
pre·vi·ous own·er

\ˈprē-vē-əs ˈō-nər\


probably originated in online posts at or

PO (singular); POs (plural)

early 21st century

1 : people who owned a home before the current occupants
2 : a rhetorical device, called in to explain a weird, tacky, or disfunctional design or structural choice.

Typically, the term is used by home renovators or restorers in a derogatory way, as in "why would the previous owners put two layers of THE SAME wallpaper on the wall?* Simply to make wallpaper stripping a challenge?", or "I can't believe the POs put four giant screws in to hold up a tiny block of wood, thus ruining the plaster when said wood was removed".

crazy folks; poor designers; #!$&*$! POs; people too lazy to figure out how to do things the right way; see also "jerk", "nincompoop", "imbecile"

*Yes, this post was inspired by actual events. The POs (probably a couple of POs back) did put two layers of crappy blue wallpaper on one of the walls. As if it's paint, and you get better coverage with 2 coats? Not so much. So first you had to strip one layer off to wet the other - but it was an optical illusion, since you couldn't see where one layer had been stripped and the other hadn't. Fun stuff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The 80s called; they want their color scheme back

Remember how we all were wearing pink and green in the 80s? Or variations - like neon green & hot pink (I had an OP jacket in this color scheme - some of you probably remember)? Or fuschia & teal - is there a more 80s color combo than that? Well, our house was way ahead of its time, it seems.

We started the guest room today - having just gotten back from sitting in a car or in meetings for 5 days, my hands were ready to get dirty! And Ken was ready to get going too. So we cleaned out the guest room, took down all the hooks, nails, extraneous racks, and the horrible valance we've been rolling our eyes at for 3 years.


And then, we tore into the wallpaper. Now, we've suspected all along that there was something different about the configuration of the guest room & animal room (as compared to the original floor plan). Well, the closet or a portion of the guest room probably were part of the animal room at one point. Do we have clues why? Well, we're guessing - or maybe just hoping - that someone wouldn't have painted one wall this color:

And the other walls and trim this color (yes, both walls AND trim were pepto pink):

But maybe they were ahead of their time. Anyways, project launched. And we're not changing the floor plan - the house works as it is and no need to make more work for ourselves, right when things are really cruising along. This room should be pretty straighforward: de-crap everything (in progress), fix some plaster, prep trim, and paint. Then details - like stripping window sashes. Minor details, right?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

See that?

See it? See it? No? Good!

One of the teeny tiny miniscule punch list jobs we've been able to manage this weekend is to fix a couple of small surface cracks we found in the living room wall. We found them when we simplified the whole entertainment-TV area by getting rid of the old monster and upgrading to a small flat panel. The we could get rid of the furniture, and went to CD books, and really scaled down. That's when we saw a couple of hairline cracks in the paint. Great, something else to add to The List.

Then, we bought the partly shabby-chiced bookshelf mentioned two posts ago. It's not quite done - I'm still whittling away (literally) at the pegs. So here's a photo of that, for folks who wanted to see it:

Way better than 2 furniture units full of stuff we didn't need, taking up too much space. So today, we filled and painted the cracks that we saw when the furniture went when we got the TV - I don't know why...she swallowed a fly. You get the gist. It looks like the old paint still matches thankfully we've labeled the paint cans in big permanent marker so we can always remember what belong with which room.

Maybe tomorrow we can do a big job like, say, replacing the one screw that is falling out of the dining room door hinge at the bottom. We'll have to see if we can muster the strength.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Most excellent sale

Ann Wallace is having a pre-holiday sale on embroidery kits for pillows & table runners in the Arts & Crafts style. What a great holiday idea - or gift to yourself if you haven't been able to justify the full-price versions. We just picked up the Pine Cone pillow kit for $25! I've always wanted one of these, and it'll go great when we re-do the guest room next month-ish. A great deal.

Click the link for "Make it by Christmas Holiday Sale".

Don't forget to support local artists & craftspeople for the holidays - it's good for the environment and the economy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Shabby chic" people: Cease and desist!

Enough with the shabby chic thing already! It's not my style at all, but being an open-minded person, I get it: you take some broken down thing and paint it up all cute. You make it look old by putting it through several decades of abuse in a few hours with a series of torture devices (chains, sandpaper, drills, whatever implement of destruction you have on hand). Cute ain't my thing, but the furniture or decorative item can, indeed come out cute and stylish. And invariably, white, pink, pale green, or flowered:

Or heinously tacky (sorry, whoever's this is. The butterflies are really wrong, though):

The style is supposed to be inspired by items found at European flea markets. Sounds good, in theory.

So why the "cease and desist" order? Everyone's entitled to their own personal style, right? Well, yes. But, much like our Constitutional rights, yours stop right where mine begins. Therefore, I implore you, please STOP ruining antique mission oak furniture. You're seriously hurting my feelings, and jeopardizing the world supply of good antique furniture. Before you take a paintbrush, sledgehammer, jackhammer, or chisel to a perfectly wonderful quartersawn bookshelf, take a second. Ask yourself these three important questions:

  1. Is this item a well-made, solid, probably hand-made item? If so, it probably does not deserve your abuse.

  2. Is there a label anywhere, or can you identify a highly desirable wood species or style? If so, take a minute and look it up - see if the piece is best left alone.

  3. Is this piece in such terrible shape that nobody could ever restore it? If there aren't several broken-out structural members or if less than 25% of the material is missing, consider restoring the piece and selling it to a period collector. How much really junky, truly broken, factory made furniture could you afford with that kind of cash? Enough to warrant thinking twice before trashing a period antique.

Seriously folks, if you want to wreck something, get yourself some unfinished pine or make sure it's really a piece nobody cares about. Go for some factory-made, 40s era Queen Anne or Empire pieces (not old Empire, one of my fave styles. Mitts off that too!).

We just stripped a bookshelf that I got cheap, because I recognized the oak, and somebody had not shabbied the whole thing (only the sides and INSIDE the little cutouts, man those were a pain to strip!). They had slathered on coats of white, burgundy, and puke-pink paint. Then sanded a bunch of it away. Fortunately, the oak was probably hard enough to resist the sanding so they didn't remove any material. Phew! Then, they jammed round pine pegs in the through tenons. I couldn't even look at them. We're making oak reproduction pegs to replace them with. Breathe easier, Arts & Crafts devotees. Things will be un-shabby soon.

And you shabby folks - think before you abuse - I mean, distress. Nothing like a euphemism.

ps - don't forget to VOTE!!!