Monday, March 30, 2015

Before & After: Ten Years of DIY Restoration

Hubby and I listed our home this week and we are already under contract after 3 calendar days of the listing going live! As I mentioned in my last blog post, I'm so unbelievably morose that we are not enjoying the fruits of our labor. I am completely in love with our home. However, we cannot undo the move we made and have to trudge forward.

There is nothing better than doing something yourself and seeing it come to fruition. This house is truly better because of the powers of Hubby and I. We learned to work as a team. We overcame stress and frustration during the restoration. We are better problem-solvers. We respect the house for not only its unique design, but for its historical significance--the first owner had it built in 1925 after her Civil War Union Sergeant husband passed away. Yes, it's an old home. Yes, it's small. We love it just the way it is. We desired that the house shine in it's period-correct beauty, attempting to get it to look closer to what it probably used to look like. We can only hope that our prospective buyer will feel the same way about it.

Here is a compilation of before and after photos of our little Spanish Jewel Box Art Deco home, at time of purchase in 2002 and today in 2015.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bittersweet Completion. Labor of Love. Cue the Melancholy Violin Music.

I'm finally following up with you on the progress of our beloved 1925 Moorish/Spanish bungalow. Hubby and I have been knee-deep in completing the painstaking remodeling details and prep work--tedious paintwork here, landscaping there, and simple cleaning up of our possessions--to prepare our home for sale. Our realtor advised getting it on the market this month for best visibility and chance of a sale. Paperwork has been signed last week, but we have not officially listed our home yet. Our realtor already found us a potential buyer--a friend of hers. We showed him around this weekend and he's VERY interested.
Now that we have met our buyer (which I reluctantly did not want to meet our BUYER,) and we have staged our home for viewers to see our restored home, something happened to us in an instant. We became depressed. 

I was feeling the anxiety a few weeks ago, which I initially thought was related to the stress of getting the house completed within deadline. Last month, I felt excited about getting it on the market. Carrying two mortgages for two years, and giving up almost every weekend for nine years to work on your home is tough. Doesn't do wonders for the social life and tests the marriage bond too. Oddly, the sadness slapped us in a matter of hours of meeting our potential buyer.

This house has integrated itself as a focal point of our lives for the past decade. Now, we are seeing it as a foreboding death of a loved one. It's the first house Hubby purchased. It's the house that my Hubby was living in when we met. The first house we co-habitated in. The first house we restored, just Hubby and I, for the duration of our relationship. It's our first house as a married couple. In fact, we chose our ceremony spot in front of a salvaged mansion window in the botanical garden, with a similar-looking keyhole opening.
This house has provided us many terrific memories with friends and family. A house that is one of the most unique and beautiful homes I have ever lived in. A house that we tailored to our interests and tastes. It is a house that is 90 years old, and needed to be restored to its original glamour, which takes time. I never imagined that I would feel this incredible sadness. Hubby has lived in the house longer than I have. I can only imagine how he has been feeling too.

The "what-ifs" began to eat me up. What if I wouldn't have gone back to my old job 50 miles away? What if my hubby didn't quit his job to land one closer to mine? What if we wouldn't have purchased another home? What if even though we experienced crappy times here, we stuck it out and stayed? I've been beating myself up. Apparently, these feelings are normal for home sellers--especially for those of us who have painfully restored an old home, or have experienced many life milestones within its walls. Hubby and I have consoled ourselves through websites and user comments such as this one, this one, and this one.

The reality is, we already purchased another home. We spent many weekends moving our possessions into the new home. We changed jobs and will change jobs again. We have moved forward. We moved away two years ago. Decisions have been made. Paperwork has been signed. There is no turning back. My new motto right now is this one:
So, in a melancholy mood, I will share with you the bittersweet completion of our home renovations. I wish we could live in it for a while to enjoy the fruits of our labor. However, it is what it is. Hopefully the next person inhabiting it will appreciate it as much as we do. Join me as I take you through a tour of our lovely home.
Our home was built to have an entry foyer. It is a little room that could be closed off from the rest of the house and used for visiting, or keeping your coatrack and fainting sofa for removing winter wear. The previous homeowner tore out the french doors leading to the living room and its adjacent walls. We added the walls back in to re-create the entry foyer, but made the doorway wider and did not add doors to retain the open feel. Here is how we decorated the entry, as you first walk in the door.
View into the living room from the entry foyer. You can see here the walls we added back in to create separation between the entry and living room. We also added a wall back in to delineate the living room from the dining room. The previous owner tore that wall down as well, which was way too "open" for a 1920s bungalow. We love allowing openness, but didn't want to see the kitchen from the entryway. If anything needed to be open, it was the kitchen, which we took care of. But more on that later. In general, laying out furniture and designing in an open concept house is not easy either. So, we built the wall with two doorways to allow the feel of openness, but give separation between the living and eating rooms. Having a wall to set a chair or table in front of makes the world of a difference.
Now, let's step further into the living room. We were lucky that this house still had the original art deco fireplace. Ground shifts underneath the home caused some cracking at the base of the fireplace, which we repaired. Sadly, many folks tear out original fireplaces because they crack or stain, but all of that is repairable. Having an original fireplace really speaks to the style of the home, and is the focal point of your living space. This fireplace was so cozy on a cold winter's night. 
Now we are entering into the dining room, looking at the kitchen. The bulk of the work we did on our home is the kitchen. It was previously completely walled in, with a kitchen door. It had one small counter and was not designed for modern appliances--lower cabinet doors could not be opened with the stove in front of them. We tore most of the wall out, leaving part of it as a built-in bar, and opened the doorway entry much wider. We re-configured the countertops into a U-shape and tore out the upper cabinets and replaced the upper portion with open stainless shelving. The kitchen looked much bigger without the upper cabinets. Nixing the upper cabinets also allowed for brighter lighting, and we could hang bars on the wall to get kitchen "stuff" off of the counters.
Since the kitchen footprint is small, we decided to vault the ceiling of the kitchen--we could add more storage vertically, and the increased space above our heads made it feel much larger. The fir-down with the canned lights you see here was where the original ceiling was. We retained the edging of the original ceiling to add ample lighting, which was another aspect our kitchen was originally missing. We found this killer used window (but practically new), which makes a nice focal point of natural light in our kitchen. When we gutted the kitchen, we made sure that we used materials that are reminiscent of the 1920s/30s era, but with modern amenities. We installed a beadboard backsplash and butcher block countertops. We sought out used stainless appliances. Hubby hand built all of the lower cabinets, but we used Ikea drawer mechanisms inside, as well as an Ikea farmhouse sink and faucet. Our method to decorating is to keep everything period correct. It truly breaks our hearts when we see old homes that have had gorgeous designs and elements ripped out and replaced with trendy, generic fixtures, that later go out of style. The home has no identity nor originality after that point.
We also scored this used built-in refrigerator. Hubby built a pull-out butler's pantry next to it. Both fit perfectly on this wall. Hubby hand-built cabinets above the refrigerator, and the top three cabinets are from Ikea. This entire area gave us tons of storage space. Hubby also made new panels for the refrigerator, so that it matched the cabinetry he made. This is my dream least I was able to enjoy it for a little while. (Sniff, sniff.)
Now we look from the kitchen into the dining room. When the walls were torn out by the previous owner, the built-in cabinet to the right stuck out like a sore thumb and did not look right. When we added a wall back in, it was amazing how much better it looked. Hubby found an old period-correct chandelier with natural aged patina and replaced the previous ugly brass 1980s chandelier. We linked a dimmer switch to the chandelier and it makes for a cozy space to dine in. We also added the beadboard on the lower half of the wall to mimic the beadboard backsplash we installed in the kitchen.
In this photo, we look through the doorway from the dining area back into the living room toward the entry way. We changed out the ugly fan with these fantastic large fans shown here, and added rheostat canned lighting above. The sconces on the wall are original to the house but were painted. They are real brass so we decided to remove them, soak them and brush the paint off, and reinstalled them. Popcorn texture was removed from the ceiling in the living room, and in the rest of the house too.
In our main hallway, there were many cracks in the walls from leveling our home. It had a popcorn ceiling and an ugly overhead light. We again used beadboard for the ceiling, which was perfect for covering up the popcorn texture and ugly plywood attic door. Cracks were caulked/patched and hallway was re-painted. All trim surrounding the multitude of doors were re-painted. The previous homeowner seemed to be into 50 shades of white, and none of our trim matched throughout the house. Oh, and see those gorgeous doors? At some point, one of the previous homeowners painted them. There was a beautiful tri-tone oak veneer in the middle! We scraped one of the doors that had paint flaking off of it and discovered what lied beneath. So, we painstakingly had scraped all 8 doors. They match the oak flooring too.
The attic door was just a plain white painted plywood covering. Hubby reinforced it but it still hung strangely. We installed the beadboard on the door itself, and added a nice latch to allow it to site flush  with the rest of the ceiling. The seamless beadboard ceiling really made the hallway pop. This is the first time I have discovered that changing the ceiling of a long hallway will impact the look.
This is our intimate little cozy master bedroom. We painted the walls and ceiling a medium flat taupe, repainted the mismatched trim, and installed the same fan that we installed in the living room. We also added canned lighting on rheostat--which was a big deal because there was no other lighting in this room other than the sconces you see here. By the way, the sconces previously there were ugly 1980s tacky fake brass sconces. Hubby had pulled the original sconces from other rooms located in random odd places in the house to replace the ugly sconces in the bedroom. Oh, how I love this little cave.
Enter into our bathroom. Original floor was still intact and in pretty terrific shape. Bathtub was original...large...deep. Truly nice to take a bath in. Lucky deal. Fixtures were changed out to classic shiny chrome. We also changed out the knobs on the vanity to clear glass. There were so many layers of paint on the trim, windows, vanity, and medicine cabinet that most doors did not shut. The details of the woodwork were hiding under all of that paint. Also, the 50 shades of white was prevalent in the bathroom. I spent my unemployed days with a heat gun and loud music removing about 5 layers of paint off of everything. It took a long time, but I eventually completed it and we re-painted it with a bright coat of paint. The details in the woodwork with only one coat of paint looked so much better, and newer, but everything is original in the bathroom. Hubby replaced the sink and toilet. That was all that was needed. Goes to show that old things need not be ripped out, only revived.
Lastly, this is the rear guest bedroom, which the second half in the back was added on sometime around the 70s or 80s by the previous homeowner. When they added on, they created a pseudo-wall kicking out by 1/2 foot or so. Again, it was difficult to decorate in this room because it was almost like two rooms back here...but not. So Hubby and I decided the lengthen the walls out more to create more separation and installed old original craftsman style french doors we salvaged from a friend's office (they are open in this photo.)  This way, it could be either two rooms or one room, depending on whether guests stayed over or we needed a home office. We also added beadboard to to this one particular wall to echo the material that we added in other parts of the house, and to hide the ugly transition from stucco to drywall.
You can see the addition of the house from the outside. The rear add-on had been built with Sears siding which was later recalled, and over time, we saw why. That siding turned to pulp, basically, and we began to get water damage. So, Hubby and I had to rip off all of the exterior and all of the sheetrock that had been damaged, and add insulation, new exterior, and new sheetrock. Hubby and I decided to use metal exterior siding, which looked more modern compared to the original stucco exterior. We wanted that contrast between the old house and new addition. We also salvaged a killer corner window to add more natural light into this area. There was a tiny window on that wall before. It is now a bright, happy space.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of our home, and all of the work that we have done to it. I plan to create a montage of before and after photos, because that is what will make your jaw drop. It did mine. It's funny that when in the midst of rehabbing a home, you forget what it was like before until you travel back in time through photo documentation. It's rewarding. After all of this, we must move forward. Cue the violins.

All photos via Art and Facts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mishap Remedy

A few years ago, our clothes dryer slowly started to eat our clothing. It mysteriously chewed little holes in our knits and delicates. At random, it made brown permanent stains on our more durable clothing, especially on collars.

Turns out, the drum glides were worn out, causing the dryer drum to sit off balance. Because the drum was off balance, there was a gap at the front of the dryer drum, where our clothes tended to get caught and become marked or shredded from the friction. Hubby fixed the mishap, but it wreaked havoc on a lot of our clothing. Some of the stains eventually disappeared over several years of washing, but other stains remained. The holes are today's reminders of the incident.

One of the victims of the dryer drum mishap was Hubby's beloved button-down shirt. The collar looked like it fell into poop. Not a good look. He was pretty partial to the shirt and resents the dryer to this day. I told him that I'm up for the challenge of fixing his shirt (somehow) so that he did not have to part with it. He married a Cheapskate, after all!
Here's a close-up view of the stain on his collar. I decided to stencil something over the stain to correct this mishap. I used contact paper as my stencil material and drew something Hubby is obsessed with--sailboats. After drawing, I cut the design carefully with an X-acto knife. I peeled off the backing of the contact paper and re-positioned the stencil several times to ensure it adequately covers the stain.
Anytime you work on a specific facet of clothing, it's a good idea to back off and look at it once more before beginning work. Allow the shirt hang naturally, to ensure the new "art-dition" (*pun, intended*) hangs at a level view when worn. 
I used fabric paint and a sponge brush, and lightly dabbed in the negative space of the handmade stencil. Allow to dry, THEN peel off stencil. There were still a few brown marks underneath the boat so I free-handed some ocean waves to masque the stains accordingly.

Hubby was happy he could keep his shirt and loved the nautical theme. Fix some of your ruined clothing with personalized paintwork. There is a remedy for everything.