Thursday, July 31, 2008

And there was light.

We had another epiphany while we were in Colorado - that the light fixture I've been collecting parts for & planning to restore is too formal for the kitchen. We'll use it elsewhere, don't worry.
So we looked for a fixture that would:
  • Suit the kitchen
  • Be period-appropriate
  • Go with the shades we already bought and the 2 pendant fixtures I'm restoring for over the sink/counter
  • Be brass and not all shiny and new!
  • Of course, be impossibly inexpensive.
We found it - or a similar one to the one we imagined - on Ebay. There's a light shop that apparently builds new fixtures. The one on their site was a wall light, but the right shape. Also we didn't need the shades, and it was a bit too expensive for us.

So we wrote them an email and asked about other ones, and shadeless ones - and they had just gotten in a vintage light, with newer wiring - exactly like we wanted. If we took it as is (no further restoration), it was going to be cheap! Sold. Which was a little dicey, because they didn't have a photo and I had to go with a verbal description. I think my email said, "OK, we'll take the gamble". Luck was a light fixture that day.

Yesterday Ken got up on the kitchen table and installed it, and it's AWESOME.
So there was light.

Sidebar: It's great to take a picture of a ceiling light, because you don't have to clean the rest of the kitchen!

Now, when is that day of rest thing happening?
Oh wait, that's every day for Henry. He's got the day of rest covered.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hearth of Gold

Many thanks to Why S? for the lesson on using "Post Options" to set the date of a post.

Ah, a warm fire on a cold winter day. Unless you're in the southern hemisphere right now, it's probably pretty far from your mind. But up here in the north country, we're all freaking out a bit about oil prices. Not for our cars - which are a pretty small amount of our annual oil usage up here - but for our furnaces. Spread out over a year, we (Bangor Bungalow) spend about 2-3 times as much per month on heating oil as on auto gas. Yup, those numbers are right.

So faced with oil prices about 3 times what they were when we bought the house - and with an unlined chimney (drat!) - it was time to rethink the heat situation.

Yes, we cut our oil consumption almost in half simply by insulating the attic (FIRST THING you should do, FYI), shutting the flue, making the doors and windows close (not necessary to replace with vinyl windows or steel doors, FYI - just fix 'em and use weatherstripping!), and turning the heat down from the 80 degrees it was when we bought to a comfy 58-62 (night-day). Love those programmable thermostats.

What else to do? There are a few options, which we checked out. The verdict - we took a cue from friends down the street, who got a pellet stove last year. Let me tell you, this is the time to be in the pellet or pellet stove business! You can't even hardly order one at this point - all the manufacturers are behind and pellets are being hoarded. Wow, like I had to whip out my New York City elbow-push-shove maneuver in order for us to get waited on in the store. And we went EARLY. I think people going now to get a stove are in tough shape.

So we ordered a stove, long story short. It will theoretically fit in the fireplace and not need one of those tacky surround things. When we finished ordering the stove, we came home, and Ken just HAD to say, "you know, this would be our last chance if we wanted to do something different with the hearth." Oops. Famous last words. The hearth was kind of 70's looking slices of brick and didn't go real well with the room or the rest of the fireplace. AND, we still have all our tile supplies. AND, what better way to spend a Saturday night a couple weeks ago than smashing out old brick pieces?

Here's an old before pic. One of my worst peeves with the old hearth was the hideous 1/4 round around the edge - and that the hearth was raised, so you could stub your toe on it endlessly. And the floorboard in front was the wrong type of wood. Argh.

Suffice to say, the hearth is getting tiled. The tile shop down the street let us test-drive a few samples (green, tan, yellow) overnight so we could check them out in different lights. In a secret ballot election, we unanimously chose the yellow ones. I'm not kidding, we really did a secret ballot, but it was just on folded-up post-its. The next morning, Henry (the cat) was sitting on top of the yellow sample board, so that clinched it.

Next: we'll spare you of the many days of arguing with various underlayments and cement board to get the right thickness of the substrate. Boy was that a pain in the butt. Backsplashes are way easier! This is after the brick came out, the hodgepodge of flooring-subfloor-concrete. Of course all 3 of these guys have to check everything out and be wherever we are.

Then we went to Colorado. Intermission music. BUT, we used our pilgrimage to Modern Bungalow to get 4 accent tiles - the yellow subway tiles were waay cheaper than we expected, partly because we decided it was such a small area, we wouldn't be total penny-pichers for a few square feet. Then we picked cheap ones anyways. So we had extra cash for the pretty tiles - and we did the Motawi thing. So classic, almost too perfect. The black accent is because the stove will be black - we think it will pick that up quite well. And the rose theme is in the kitchen a bit too. I should say, if anyone from Motawi is reading this, you might consider a few more tile designs in 3x3 size - if all of us bungalow-ers are using them in subway-tile style settings, then 3x3 are really useful. There are the 6x6s, but they're too big for some spots. Anyways, they are GORGEOUS!

The last tile arrived in the mail on Monday and was put in place this evening, in between field work and lab work sessions at the real job. We were too tired to even look at any gravel or dirt tonight anyways - so the tile was a nice, quick, instant gratification. The Motawis aren't permanently installed in this pic - we'll wait for the 'big reveal' till we're really done.

Now we need to chase down one old floorboard to fill the sides, then the ol' grout part. That's Ken's specialty.

FYI, I found these helpful - This Old House hearth tiling instructions .

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This posted out of order

I started a post a while ago and just finished, but the date seems to be set at the date I started so it posted way down low. Which I find kind of irritating. So here it is.

Ayone know how to change the post date in google blogger? Let me know...)

Saturday, July 26, 2008


First, we have to tell you that we happened to catch Superman, the original movie (can you believe it was made in 1978?!?) the other day on TV. It was on one of the 5 channels we get on our cheapo cable, the Ion channel. Sometimes their little logo says "Television". Real creative name, eh? I don't know what this channel is - maybe it's Canadian or something (we get Canadian TV since we're so close by). Mostly they seem to play Quantum Leap reruns. Ha! But Superman was worth a watch. As the move played, we suddenly realized that Superman's adopted mom, Mrs. Kent*, had a totally Arts & Crafts interior in their farmhouse out in Kansas or wherever they lived. It was awesome - nice colonnade between rooms and all unpainted wood trim! What a couple of bungalow nerds we've become.

* The actress that played her was born in Portland Maine!


Landscaping day - it's finally time to get on that patio job! We rented a backhoe-front loader dealie and Ken was Superman and dug all day - until we blew a hose on it & had to end a couple hours early. The back patio hole was so close to being dug!

Turned out, it was Super-karma anyways, because the guy who was going to bring our gravel bailed on us. After all summer telling me, "Just call the day you need it & I'll bring it by", now he says he can't do it till Wednesday! Another gravel company can do it Monday morning, so they win. So the good thing is, we will probably get to keep the backhoe an extra day since we're paying for a day it's sitting BROKEN. Silly thing.

Anyways, Superman did an awesome job...
Before -


And what was Wonder Woman doing the whole time? Weeding and digging up all the little garden stones we buried during Operation: Dirt & Poo. The back garden is looking tidy now for sure.

Stay tuned for Monday's update on the fate of the backhoe...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Want to have a stressful morning?

...have a whole bunch of coffee, then hammer little strips of wood up against a glass window. Yikes!

Pardon the picture - shaky hands!

It's raining again (what the hell!?!), and tomorrow is the scheduled day-of-reckoning when we will have a little bulldozer and dig for the patio, so today is odd jobs day.

First order of business was putting the little strips of wood back on the exterior door in the mudroom, to retain the glass more elegantly than the little glazier's points alone. When I pulled those babies out, that was stressful too - I swear it took an hour and two broke. One was definitely my fault (a little too much tension), but one was pretty damaged to begin with. I saved two of them.

Then I took one of the busted ones over to Owen Grey, our local cabinetmaker and wood shop extraordinaire (who quite certainly now refer to me as 'that crazy lady with all the fir trim'), bringing all the scraps of fir from the wood stockpile, and asked them to make me a bunch of the stuff. Ken brilliantly pointed out that we have one more door like this to do, and some more strips mught get broken, so we might as well get a bunch of moulding made.

They did it, no fuss, no muss, and a perfect job. I love those guys! And their cute pointer-dogs, too.

If it ever stops raining, I can varnish the door! And yes, that's nail polish. I cut off most of my Colorado manicure, and I'm betting I can chip the rest of that fancy stuff off by the end of the weekend. If not, I'll take it off properly. Sorry Mom - I know it looks AWFUL! It's not black, FYI - it's midnight purple.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Look what we did

Like many other housebloggers this week, we're entering a contest that asks us to show off one of our proudest DIY achievements. Hmmm. There are several projects we've done that just seem like herculean tasks and that made such a difference in the house and/or our lives, but I wonder if we're partly starry-eyed about them because of just how tacky things were beforehand?

So for the contest, we'll go with my Dad's favorite achievement of ours: the piano window seat.

It's in pdf version here, but in case you haven't seen that one, here's the short story:

After we restored our dining room, we knew we should put in a window seat to cover the radiator. Also, when we stripped the wallpaper in the dining room, we saw clues that there had been a window seat before: a mis-matched moulding under the windowsill, un-finished baseboards, a ghost of a line of stain where the seat was, and a series of truncated floorboards. We weren’t sure how it should look, or what to build it of.

Coincidentally, we had been trying get a piano that came with the house out of our basement. The basement was probably built around it, because there was no way to get it out!

So we carefully dismantled it, ending up with a nice array of mahogany. We stripped some pieces of the ubiquitous white paint, and an idea began to form… we reconfigured the piano into a window seat, using almost every scrap of the limited material, plus a few new 2x4s. The piano sides (double-thick pieces) became the seat lids, which open; the panels from the front of the piano became the facade; the remaining pieces were the frames; the piano hinges –well, obviously were used as hinges.

We melted off some veneer from a scrap and applied it to endgrain pieces for a finished look. A little trimming and staining and we were done, with hardly any leftover pieces!

This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value. Also see:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Did you miss us?

Long time, no post. We were away, at a family event out in Colorado. Don't worry though, the Bangor Bungalow was never far from our mind.

In fact, Colorado (we were in Boulder) is a fantastic place for bungalowphiles.

First, of course, our favorite store, Modern Bungalow. Last time we were there was just a few months after we bought the house, and our bungalow palette was not as refined. It was AWESOME to go now. More blog later when we're fully recovered and when our purchases arrive (had to ship some things). Yes, we had saved our pennies before going and actually bought a couple nice things, not our usual M.O. of trash picking & fixing up. Nice to see how the other half lives for a change!

Second, the local architecture is very bungalow. We had a great time checking out the homes all the way from north to south Boulder, up in Nederland (very funky), and in Denver. Lots of the houses have wood shingles, which just looks so great on a bungalow - but would last about 2 seconds in Maine. Ah well.

Third, we went to the Colorado Chataqua, one of the last ones in existence. Started by Roosevelt in the early part of the 20th Century, these were places where scholars & teachers could go, with a traveling education roadshow - since most folks back then didn't finish high school. The one in Boulder is a great start to lots of hikes, has a wonderful restaurant (Dining Hall) and is full of bungalows and cabins to rent or use during their educational and arts programming. We peeked in this one, the Missions House. The piers in front, flanking the steps, will be a model for ours...

and the furniture was pretty fab too. We peeked through a screen door to get the view below. Nice! We're reorganizing the living room, so we need pointers on the best arrangement of furniture.

Fourth, We went to this place, ReSource. All you housebloggers in the area, this place was awesome. Not everything is vintage, but the prices were great. We saw a dutch door, loads of cabinets, and all sorts of lighting, lumber, tile, etc. Think: Home Depot amount of stuff, if you could be a bit flexible with design. We got a nice vintage brass light fixture for my study for $1. I told the guy I usually haggle on principle, but we would let him off easy since the price was right!

Where's the houseblogger with the kitchen cabinet conundrum? There are definitely some decent ones that you could use and replace or restructure the doors.

Fifth, we stayed with family some of the time (Thanks J&P!) and at a very cool motel the rest of the time - the Foot of the Mountain Motel. Great antidote to overpriced Boulder B&Bs! It is very vintage, the owners were just so great (one let me use his own personal hair gel when we left some of our supplies at J&Ps house), and it's in a beautiful spot up in the foothills. As the name suggests. Here's the view from the back of our rustic, cabin-like room:

It's also right along the trail that goes up Boulder Creek, so you can walk that way to and from downtown, OR you can walk the bungalow-lined streets. What a great trip, eh?

Now back to that to-do list...we have to get the hearth tiled QUICK before the stove shows up. Did we tell you about the tiles? time.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What's up with the mudroom, anyway?

We've stolen a few moments from a really busy week to write a blog. So, we figured we'd fill you in about what's up with the mudroom, since it's our rainy day project this summer. And we've had plenty of rainy days, so we've gotten a good bit done.

The mudroom is what we called the coat room growing up, but mud is better for me & Ken since we can get pretty messy. When we bought the house, the mudroom was the first thing we saw. And it's a miracle we didn't turn right back around and leave. That was where our realtor uttered the fabulous phrase, "Well, I guess you could call this move in condition". It was that tacky. The charm of the little boy chef planter kept us looking - I can't believe we didn't photograph him before he went to the yard sale (someone bought him, by the way). He's just out of view (you can see the hanger) behind the fridge in this pic from move-in day.

And then we've spent the past 3 years apparently avoiding photographing the mudroom! So I don't have many before pictures for you. Eddy doesn't care to look at it either - thus, the bag over his head. Kidding. This is what Ken & Ed do while I'm slaving away at work. Nice.

It started out as a long room, that we think was originally a classic bungalow back porch, which probably was not heated space and held the icebox. There's evidence of pipes to the basement, and the basement under this part of the house may have been a later addition. Thank goodness someone else did it! We also think a wall was moved, and this room was originally probably 2 feet wider (at the expense of the kitchen).

The long shape and the setup made it an awkward room - it had some 1950s era tall cabinets added for storage, and they were hard to get to and not that useful. So we split it into 2 parts: the half bath and the mudroom. The goal of the mudroom is to hang coats and snowpants, put snowy boots and various shoes, store dog-walking stuff, and generally get into the house with your stuff. We're keeping it pretty simple, since it will be small.

Now, the half bath end has been done for quite some time. And might I say, I think this was the best/smartest thing we ever did - a first floor half bath is a GREAT addition. It was our realtor's idea to put it here - brilliant!

So the other half of the room has been languishing in dingy, dirty-carpeted, brown paneled purgatory since then.

Last year, we found a photo of a very simple mudroom about the size and shape of ours, and finally had an inspiration for what it should look like. Since then, we've been chipping away at it when we've needed a project or when I needed some demolition therapy (I yanked the carpet & floor one afternoon - thanks for the portable, battery powered skil saw, dad! It's awesome!).

During the recent raininess, we realized that we had done enough that most of the infrastructure and prep was done! Ken wired it when we did the bathroom, I stripped the paint when we were hosting a brunch and I didn't want chippy paint if guests brought kids, and we had the floor out. Time to prep walls and paint!

So Ken had a great wall-patching, plaster-fixing, JC floating week last week, and I managed to clean and paint our tin ceiling panels in 20-minute sessions. This was one of the first times we actually had all the prep work done and weren't running around in the middle of installing something, still fixing something or shimming something. So we painted and put up the ceiling in record time late last week! The green paint ("rejuvenation", my favorite color) was leftover from the kitchen trim.

Tin ceiling was a lot we bought on ebay to do the mudroom, half bath, and my study. It was nice to sort of go shopping in our own basement - we didn't really have to buy any new materials or supplies for this room, since we have a good stockpile going at this point.

And we cleaned this vintage globe for the light fixture - a find at the antique store for $7. It appeared to be hand-painted. We had a new schoolhouse fixture, and replaced the plain white globe with this. We actually hemmed and hawed about whether or not to buy this globe - yes, over $7 - and we're soooo glad we got it. Duh!

We still have to add moulding and all the rest of the trim (some original, stripped and some newly-made*), plus put in the floor - but we decided to wait till after the dirty landscaping is done to do that. I mean, how much mud can a mudroom handle?

*We needed 3/4" fir quarter round, and our router bits didn't include a big enough roundover bit. So, we used a 1/2" chamfer bit to get most of the material off one corner of our 3/4x3/4 stock, then hand planed it to approximately quarter round shape, then shaped it with rough sandpaper - and it came out really well. Just in case you ever need to cheat on the quarter round!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bangor nighttime vignette

The scene: after 10:30 p.m., Bangor Backyard. We're standing outside while Eddy did his evening business and looking around at the garden (having spent a couple evenings weeding the garden and lawn).

All of a sudden, blasting across the night air, we hear the rev of a motorcycle, see its lights just beyond the neighbor's garage, and hear, "Well I'm HOT BLOODED, check it and see...".

Yes, Foreigner. Blasted from distorted motorcycle speakers. Late on a Tuesday. It was fabulous. The bikes were stopped just long enough to get through the whole chorus, probably agree on directions where they were headed next, then they roared off, the Doppler effect taking the song with it as they crossed the interstate.

"Got a fever of 103..." (now you can have it stuck in your head all day too).

We just had friends on a bike trip stay at the ol' Bangor Bungalow. What a great summer vacation thing to do - head off with just the necessities and a vehicle that gets 50+ mpg. Plus everyone that does it ends up with a glowing sunburn and a perma-grin. And great hair.

Happy trails, Easy Riders.