The living room is DONE!

Well, not quite, but we're down to punchlist tasks like replacing the outlets and outlet covers and touch-up painting. We even have our Christmas tree up (but not decorated yet). I'm also in the process of finding furnishings, as the Eiffel Tower lamp just isn't very Arts and Crafts-y. :) Somehow, probably because this project took so damned long, we managed to forget that the original trim is missing from the window at the bottom of the stairs and on the landing. I have a header for the landing window, but we'll need to either recreate or salvage the rest. Still, even though it isn't American Bungalow material, it looks like a living room, and it feels like home. In celebration, here's a little photo tour.

The living room, as seen from the stairs. New wood futon frame, new mattress cover, old pillows. Gotta work on those pillows, but they'll do for now...

The doorway to the dining room, complete with ornery cat. The walls aren't really 2 different colors, it just looks that way in the photo. Who knows...? The wall with the futon is a good representation of the wall color.

Here's the rest of the wall. My aunt and uncle "donated" the little corner bookshelf (and the matching bookshelf in the next picture), and they fit in perfectly. I love the Eiffel Tower lamp, but it's going to live in the office as soon as I can find a replacement.

Doesn't the front door look awful now? I hated it before, but now that it's up against some nice woodwork... Ugh. I need a bigger wreath.

And, the front window. The header is one of my two favorite pieces of trim. It has a beautiful grain pattern, but I can't get a better picture of it until I have my tripod. We got paper shades from the Home Depot. After 2 years, I was finally tired of everyone who drove by getting a peek into the house. I like my privacy.

Now if only we weren't terrified to hang pictures on the walls...


Score! Salvaged pine flooring

Shayne and I stopped by the Habitat for Humanity ReStore yesterday to look for a "new" front door. We didn't have much luck with that, but we did find 2 boards of antique pine tongue-and-groove flooring that match our floor perfectly! The best part is that they were only $1.25 each! The boards aren't too long, maybe 4 feet, but they'll help us on our way to patching the living room floor where some big heat vents once were. Note to self and anyone else who might read this: patch the floor before refinishing... That wasn't really a feasible option for us, since it's taken me this long to find matching flooring locally. I probably should have just ordered some from an online salvage store, but oh well. I was also hoping to find registers that fit the opening that match our old ones, but that hasn't happened either. Just more proof that I really have no idea what I'm doing.


A history lesson

After receiving the letter from the previous owners, I figured it would be a good idea to talk to D and M across the street about the Prairie Box. I'm not sure why I didn'tdo this sooner, as they are very nice folks and we've visited on several previous occasions. Somehow, I can't figure out how, since it's one of my obsessions, the house never came up in conversation.

But this afternoon, armed with some wayward Christmas mail for the PPOs (K and L), I stopped in and asked about the Prairie Box. And M said, "Why D's sister used to live there... About 49 years ago!" Who'd have thought? Talk about a small world. They're going to talk with her and see if she has any old pictures of the house or maybe even the property abstract. That would be like winning the lottery!

D and M also provided some insights into the property, since they are good friends with the PPOs and had visited many times throughout the years. K and L seemed like they did the most modifications to the property, including adding a garage, remuddling the porch, adding vinyl siding andfake brick, opening up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, remodeling the kitchen, finishing the basement, and putting up the paneling and ceiling tiles. I learned that the 2 car garage had been moved to the property from South Bend in the middle of the night. I also learned that the back wall of the dining room, facing the back yard, used to have a window. Not a double-hung, but a head-high one that you put a buffet underneath. D and M also told me a little about the porch that used-to-be. It had a short railing and squat craftsman columns, just as I had imagined.

I'm amazed that so many of the changes I wanted to make to the house, even before we started uncovering clues to what was original, are actual features the house used to have. Before it was remuddled, this house was everything I imagined it to be. Too bad I haven't found any built-ins that had been removed...!

D and M were amazed that we want to make the house look old again. "You're young people, don't you want it to look new?" Their home, a vernacular farmhouse, had been remuddled almost to the point of style-less-ness. It is a very nice house; clean, well-kept, and homey, but just isn't what we want. I told them that I love antiques and old homes, and that we just want to pay tribute to the character of the house while making it our own. That's what it's about for everyone, after all: creating a vision of home.

For Mom: Living room pictures


Sneak Preview 2 (and a wee bit of Before and After)

I wasn't supposed to work on the house yesterday, but I did. There I was, already dressed for the graduation, crawling around on my hands and knees staining woodwork. I need help... But look what else I accomplished!

None of the woodwork is attached to the wall in this photo, except for the bottom portion of the baseboard, which never came off. There will also be a separate block at the bottom of the door frame, but it's not done yet. I'll also be getting the green paint (looks white in photo) off of the edge of the door frame, since it just doesn't go with the room...

I can't even begin to describe the amount of satisfaction I'm feeling as this room nears completion. I honestly haven't been this excited since we bought the house. I never thought the living room would look bad when I was done (else why do it at all?!), but it's been such a long project that I definitely felt hopeless at times. It seemed like we'd NEVER finish. I didn't take very good "Before" pictures in some cases, but here's a little reminder of what the door trim, walls, and floors looked like 2 years ago:

We're come a long way, baby!


The 7 Day Blitz: Day 3

I'm exhausted. However, much was accomplished. We're progressing a little slower than anticipated, but still doing great. Today we disassembled the front and side windows and sanded sealed, and stained all the pieces; sanded, sealed and stained the 2 remaining pieces of baseboard that are still on the wall, and cleaned up the sawdust mess. All but 2 pieces of baseboard are finished and awaiting the final coats of shellac. Somehow on paper it doesn't sound like we did much, but that was a good 6 hours of work. The woodwork looks fantastic, and I'm getting really excited about how it's turning out.

Tomorrow we're going to a friend's graduation ceremony and my mom's for dinner, so Day 4 will pretty much be a bust. Day 5 Shayne goes back to work, but I will clean up, seal, and stain the headers for the dining room, south window, and west windows, and put on the last coat of wall and ceiling paint. Day 6 I should be able to start putting all the woodwork back on the walls... Christmas is coming...!!!

For Omar: Staining pine woodwork

A few days ago, Omar of El Paso Foursquare asked, "The woodwork in my home is also pine (fir?). I've had one project already dealing with refinishing and had quite a time getting it to look right. Blotchiness being a major factor. Has the technique you describe to avoid that worked for you?"

The short answer is "yes", but there are some caveats. First, let me describe the technique that I use a bit more thoroughly. I'd like to qualify this by saying that this has worked for me. I'm not an expert (I'd never even done this before last week!), and you may have different results with your project.

I've sanded my woodwork to remove all traces of the original finish, which wasn't in great shape, and to remove all of the stuck-on bits of paint. I finish with 240 grit, then wipe down the boards using a rag dampened with denatured alcohol. I let the boards dry for 30 - 60 minutes, then apply a 1 lb coat of dewaxed clear shellac with a foam applicator. For the first two boards tried to wipe on the shellac, but I couldn't coat it evenly that way, and I ended up with some blotches. In order to prevent that, the shellac must be even. Using the foam brush, I felt that I was putting on too thick of a coat, but it still stained beautifully. I let the shellac dry for at least an hour, then apply the stain. I'm using Varathane golden mohogany and applying it with an old t-shirt. I folded up a section, then dip about .75" into the stain. I sort of "paint" it on, then wipe off the excess with another bit of t-shirt. I let dry for at least another hour, then apply a 3 lb cut of clear shellac over the top.

The result?

I dunno about you, but I think it looks damn good! I'll have to touch up some areas where the paint stuck inside nail holes with some color-matched paint before the final shellacking, but the overall effect is perfect.


The 7 Day Blitz: Days 1 and 2

I took this week off work to try to get the living room done before Christmas. So far so good!

Yesterday was Shayne's b-day, so we only put in about 2 hours of work. I finish-sanded the trim for the door and stripped the header. I also stripped the headers for 2 of the windows. They'd already been stripped with the heat gun, I just used the chemical goo to clean them up. Shayne stripped most of the inside of the doorway between the living and dining rooms with the heat gun.

Today I prepped and stained the trim that goes around the front door. My plan was to finish the trim around one opening to see how I liked the color. While I did stick to that plan, I would have done more if I'd been able to. The color is exactly what I wanted, and it looks great. The lamp-lit pics didn't turn out well, so I'll try to get some up tomorrow. We also finished stripping the doorway and prepped the other trim pieces for stain. About halfway through the day I got a ferocious headache, so I wasn't as productive as I'd hoped. Still, we're making good progress and everything but the stairs will be finished by next week.