Home Renovation Triage

I woke up this morning cursing the PPO's of our house. We turned the AC on last night, since it's supposed to be in the 90s today. I don't mind heat during the day as long as I can sleep at night, but the nighttime temps are in the 70s (which means that it's still at least 80° in the house). So I set the AC to a conservative 76° and went to bed. When we got up this morning, the downstairs was a comfortable 76°. The upstairs... Maybe 82°. The bathroom is cool. The little front bedroom is cool. The two decent-sized bedrooms...? Not so much. Since the PPO removed an essential duct, the temperature in those two rooms is extremely difficult to regulate. It's really pissing me off that they took something that worked fine and ruined it. I can understand half-assed repairs and remodels, but why replace something that works with something that doesn't?
The uncomfortable-ness of our sleeping quarters has got me thinking about how to triage our planned projects. First and foremost, obviously, is finishing the living room. I was planning for our next project to be the office and closets. This would be to kill time while we save up enough money to do that bathroom. Then would come the bathroom, dining room, little bedroom, and then the kitchen. Last would be our bedroom and the back porch. That was the five-year plan, anyways. The two enormous projects (bathroom and kitchen) are flanked by smaller, cheaper-but-labor-intensive projects. The problem is that I want to fix that ductwork as soon as possible. In order to do that, we need to re-run the duct from the furnace up through the no-longer-existant wall between the dining room and kitchen. So we'd need to rebuild that wall, which would mean tearing up the dining room and kitchen a few years before we are able to really work on them. Ugh. This is especially distasteful because the dining room isn't that bad. The office is. Ugly carpet, ugly curtains, ugly closet doors, wallpapered paneling over the plaster, ceiling tiles, mismatched baseboard, and no air conditioning versus nicely painted paneling over the plaster, Pergo flooring, and ceiling tiles in the dining room. Maybe we'll just have to live in discomfort for a few more years. I don't think I can live with that carpet and wallpaper much longer...!


Racoons on the Roof

We've graduated! And not in a good way... Instead of a squirrel problem, we now have a racoon problem. All through the winter, we had a family of red squirrels that decided to nest in our garage. They threw the ancient insulation all over the place and rained down black walnuts onto our cars. Shayne trapped 3, but then they decided that they preferred their walnut stash to peanut butter. Can you blame them? With the arrival of spring, they cleared out. Shayne pulled down a 4' by 8' board of foam insulation and a piece of plywood to find their nest, which was removed. Hopefully they're gone for good. But they must have told that racoon family that our garage was a good place to be, since Mama Racoon and her baby decided to take up residence on the flat roof between the two garages.
The photo shows Mama Racoon's tail end as she hides under the roof overhang. Shayne got a pretty good look at them last night and said that baby is the size of our cat (about 12 lbs), and mom is about 3 times that size. That's a big racoon! We don't want to kill them, and there's no space to put a trap up there... Any suggestions?


Back to work...

After spending a relaxing extra-long weekend in the Smoky Mountains, it's back to business as usual. I was really proud of myself on vacation; aside from one middle-of-the-night anxiety attack about the living room colors the night before we came home, I didn't think about the house at all. Seriously. I'm very impressed with myself. Here's the obligatory we-were-really-there picture:
We were dumb enough to start our hike in the afternoon, so we got stuck in a thunderstorm. We were soaked by the time we got to the waterfall, but it was warm enough that it wasn't really a bad thing. I was very glad that we both had waterproof boots, since our feet were warm and dry (and that really makes a huge difference). Hiking made me realize how much I missed backpacking, and my goal is to make sure I go at least one weekend a month so that I don't get so stressed out and caught up in the house. I didn't even realize how much the house was stressing me out until we left.

Of course the house here waiting for me when we got home, in all it's half-finished glory. Half finished... That must be the optimist in me. We have one room about 75% complete; I can't even realistically call the house half-finished. Maybe one-tenth. Maybe.

Regardless, I'm much happier with the living room colors than I was when we left. I'm not sure if the week of rain affected my thinking or perceptions, but the red seemed too dark and the gold too much of a contrast. When we got home last night, they seemed very welcoming and inviting. Today, they're downright cheery. Once the floor is lighter, it'll open the room back up a little again, and having furniture and decoration will break everything up. I'm much more confident now that these colors will work in the room and look the way I imagined them.

I spent today putting the second coat of gold on the ceiling and walls, so I'm just about done. The red still looks a bit shiny in spots, so I'm probably going to put on a third coat just to be sure. Here is how the living room looked as of an hour or so ago. The top photo is the best for the red, but the "Hubbard Squash" is off in all the pics. It's a much warmer yellow/gold than the photos show.


Painting the Living Room: Day 3

Who would have htought painting could be so tiring? So far today I've completed all of the cut-in work, plus rolled a second coat of red onto all the walls. I also completed the first coat of gold on the ceiling. I don't feel like I've done a whole lot, but I'm beat. There's not a huge difference from yesterday's pics, so I'll save the eye candy for later.

I'm getting really anxious to refinish the floors and woodwork. I could work on sanding the woodwork between coats of paint, but it's pretty cold and nasty outside. I'm feeling ambitious, but not that ambitious. Those two projects won't be completed for another few weeks, since Shayne and I are going to the Smoky Mountains in 4 days. We won't be back until next Sunday, which leaves me one day off before I go back to work. The following "weekend" I'll get going on sanding the floors. That will be the last big project for the living room, and then I can start on the fugly office.

I'm off to take a bath and try to relax...


Painting the Living Room: Day 2

Whew! I'm worn out... Today I got up early and went to Sherwin-Williams to purchase the paint. I had a moment of unease this morning when I wend downstairs and the red looked pinkish and the gold looked very yellow, but Shayne talked me out of changing the color scheme. He's good for keeping me on track and away from agonizing over things, which I appreciate. Left to my own devices, I probably would have second-guessed myself and ended up with hideous colors.

I got a severe case of sticker shock at S-W. $126 for 3 gallons of paint and a paintbrush! I knew they were expensive, but... I'm trying to look at it as an investment, since we'll be living with this paint for a long time. And it is good paint. It hardly smells and doesn't splatter at all. It also covers extremely well. Since we went with flat paint, it was important to both of us to have cleanable paint, since the stairwell will be a lighter color and is subject to the dog and lots of wear and tear. I'm trying to convince myself it was worth it, can you tell??

The colors were slightly different than the test quart, which you can see much better in the pictures than in real life. The red is less purple and more true red, and the gold is less yellow. I like it better. My mom came over to help out this afternoon, and she did the cut-in work while I rolled like a madwoman. I got a first coat on everything (upstairs hall, stairway, and the entire living room), minus ceilings, and I even managed a second coat of red on one living room wall. Here are today's photos:

In both of the photos above you can clearly see the difference between the two coats.


Painting the Living Room: Day 1

After poring over paint chips last night, Shayne and I couldn't seem to find a red that was red enough. They all looked either pink-y or orange-y. This afternoon, I decided to go to Sherwin-Williams with our 2 finalist colors to get test quarts. Instead of asking for a color match, I ended up finding "Roycroft Copper Red" and "Hubbard Squash", both members of Sherwin-Williams Arts and Crafts palette. I had a hard time deciding on those two colors, but the lady that helped me was extremely helpful and patient. She even found a sample of wood stain that was close to the color of our woodwork so that I could make sure the colors would look good with it. After about 30 minutes of deliberation, I bought a sample size of each and a couple roller covers. Even after I took up so much of her time, she gave me a discount on the roller covers, which was awesome. I headed straight home and started rolling away.

I managed to get 1 full wall covered in both colors, then added a "spot" on every other wall in the living room. I even got some of the ceiling painted. This was supposed to be a test, but I ended up liking the colors so much that I didn't want to stop. even if we decide not to go with these colors, we already have primer and I only spent $5 each on the test quarts, so I'll only be out a few hours of time.

But I think it looks great. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Just a note: on my monitor, the colors appear a little darker than they do on my walls.

Living Room Paint Mock-Up

**Updated picture with colors that match our selected paint chips**

I don't know how people painted rooms before Photoshop. I'm such a wimp about color that I love to be able to "try it out" first, before the commitment is made. So... Here's what I came up with. The brown trim separating the wall and ceiling colors is a picture rail, and it will be a darker brown. Obviously I'll finish stripping the stairway and the window will have trim around it, but the color of the stairs is just about right for the woodwork. The floor will be a much lighter golden/amber color. The red on the walls will be a little less intense. I couldn't get it right on the computer.
This is my inspiration photo, taken from Bungalow Style : Creating Classic Interiors in Your Arts and Crafts Home. And this is what my living room looked like as of this morning.

Phil needs to come back and do some touch-up work before we can paint the upstairs hall, but the living room is ready to go. We're going to buy paint tomorrow, and I'll start painting on Thursday. I can't believe that we finally made it to this point. Back in January, I thought I'd be scraping painted wallpaper off the walls forever. It's hard to believe that our living room used to look like this:

Almost there...


Still More Bathroom Ideas

Even though I'm in the middle of the living room project, even though the next project is the garage and the one after that is the office, even though we won't be starting on the bathroom for at least another 8 months, I can't stop thinking about my plans for the bathroom. This really can't be healthy. It started before we closed onthe house, with the footless clawfoot tub from the rental. Ever since we decided to buy the Prairie Box, there hasn't been a single day to go by that I haven't thought about what I'd like to do to the bathroom. I make sketches at work; I pore through Arts and Crafts books looking for the elusive period-appropriate bathroom; I even broke down today and ordered "Bungalow Bathrooms" from Amazon. I feel like I'm back in junior high, except now I'm in love with pedestal sinks and subway tile instead of boys. I'm surprised that Shayne hasn't left me for someone who doesn't drool over every passing clawfoot tub.

And then I found this picture:

While this picture isn't exactly what we want, it showed me that it's okay to put the sink across from the bathtub in a narrow bathroom. Simple as that. So we're leaving the layout of the bathroom completely alone, despite the slight bottleneck between the tub and sink. With a pedestal sink instead of the hulking cabinet we currently have, the space will be even less confining, and the pedestal will take up less visual space than a vanity. The bathroom in the picture is as narrow as ours (I counted hex tiles to check the measurements), and everything looks great.

Here's an approximation of what our bathroom will look like:

The walls will be lighter, the wall screening the toilet will probably be only 4 feet tall, and we'll have all white tiles, but you get the idea.

Note to self: The simplest solution is usually the best one. Anyone can feel free to remind me of that the next time I obsess over something for 8 months.

Stairway of the Damned

Sounds like a bad carnival ride, doesn't it? Unfortunately, stripping the spindles of the stairway is neither as quick or as fun as a ride at the fair. Because of the odd positions I have to contort myself into to scrape the sides, it's actually the most un-fun project I've done so far. But I only have 8 spindles left to go, and those have only 3 sides of paint left. If I can convince myself to do 5 sides per day, I'll be done in 5 days with a minimum of achiness. Who would have thought that wielding a heat gun and scraper could be so painful?

Once all the paint is off the spindles and railing, I'll be rubbing everything down with denatured alcohol and steel wool. I'm praying that this will remove enough of the stain and shellac that I won't have to sand much at all. It's such a cramped area and the railing itself has so many curves and angles that sanding would probably be an exercise in futility. Either way, I'm very thankful to be almost done.

Speaking of "almost done"... Once the stairway is stripped, we can FINALLY paint. I know I've been saying we're going to paint soon for the past month or so, but work progressed much slower than planned. But now we're really, honestly, truly almost done. The original deadline was Christmas. Then Valentine's Day. Then Easter. If we have the walls painted and the floors refinished by the 4th of July, I'll be ecstatic. If that happens, maybe the trim will be finished by Thanksgiving and we can actually decorate for Christmas. Maybe.


Please excuse the mess...

I'm trying to teach myself how to edit CSS (i.e. my Blogger template), and it's a bit of a trial-and-error process. This blog will probably be in various stages of disarray, depending on how frustrated I get. If it looks unfinished, it most likely is. Either that, or I screwed something up and didn't notice. :)

"If I were a rich (wo)man..."

When I was a kid, I was one of those strange people who didn't really want to be rich. I'm not very materialistic, and my primary motivation for working is because I like my job (not that I'd turn down my paycheck or anything...!). However, owning an old home has made me see that having a boatload of money wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Then I could afford a $6200 Klondike refrigerator and an even pricier Elmira stove. My kitchen would be clad in beautiful Crown Point cabinetry instead of El Cheapo imitation wood cupboards. And the two layers of carpet? Poof! Say hello to my beautifully restored yellow pine floors!

I should really find something better to do at work than read American Bungalow and Old House Journal...