Monday, March 9, 2009

Metamorphosis Monday

Join our hostess Susan, from Between Naps on the Porch for Metamorphosis Monday. It is a fun way to share a Monday!

For my first Metamorphosis Monday I am showing you a project that took up the better part of almost a year of my life-our addition. I am thinking about this big change in my life because I am doing laundry today in my laundry room which was formerly my back porch! When we first purchased this house in 1986, we could see the hidden potential in it. It had last been updated in the mid 1900’s. The back room was an addition the original owners added about 1917. We wanted this addition to look as if it had always been a part of the house. So like the second addition added in 1917, our addition also shifted slightly to the left.

It encompassed 880 square feet, giving us a family room, master bedroom & bath, a laundry room and full downstairs bath. Our original third upstairs bedroom, we converted into a walk-in closet and office. Planning for the project began in June of 2005. We met with the contractor and architect in June and were scheduled to begin in July. We ran into easement problems, had to have a hearing and didn’t break ground until September of 2005. We finished construction in May of 2006 and the house painting went on through the summer. It took us another year to finally get the backyard back in place. We had some water issues because of the new elevation, so my husband added a truck-load of crushed stone & French drains so the basement didn’t keep filling with water every time it rained.

The first two shots are of our home bfore the addition.

This is the framing of the family room.

We had a lot of issues with rain and then snow in the beginning of construction. Digging the foundation kept being postponed because of torrential downpours. One morning we woke up to an unexpected snowstorm and the family room was not yet under roof. There was about three inches of snow inside we had to shovel out and they quickly covered the roofline in plastic.

The windows for the family room arrived without framing. Thankfully we had a carpenter who was able to make the framing for them. The doors being over 100 years old did not come together perfectly and required more adjusting. We scouted the internet for weeks trying to find the right size hinges & lock set. The downstairs fireplace didn’t set flush against the wall so that required some last minute adjusting. We forgot to figure in the placement of the holes for the upstairs sink and purchased a sink that was too large for the cabinet. Since we were playing the part of the painting contractor, it was up to use to patch and fill all the nail holes, prime all the walls and woodwork and do the finish painting. That was how we spent every evening.

We used old pieces whenever possible. The addition sports stained glass windows in the family room, laundry room, closet, master bedroom & master bath. All the windows that face our neighbor’s house are stained glass, giving us lots of privacy without sacrificing the light. We spent months scouring flea markets, antique shops, & salvage companies for just the right pieces. The internet was another valuable source for hardware, fixtures, & plumbing supplies. We used original molding from the house in the master bath. The ceiling fixture once hung in the original dining room. The sink cabinet in the master bath was a Victorian dresser we had altered to use as our sink base.

Our new side garden & back yard!

The painters adding new color to the attic window. We didn't paint the outside of the house ourselves-this time!

It is literally our dream come true and a vision we had in our heads for nineteen years. I think it is our largest metamorphosis!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

From Lemons Come Lemonade

From Lemons Come Lemonade-nothing can ring more true than the birth of Hydrangea Row. It is a small gardenscape on the east side of our house that borders our neighbors. It used to be half-dead hedge, which my husband hacked out and planted lush, green grass. It made a lovely little path around the side of our house & we planted some old fashioned perennials up against the house. We bordered the garden with landscape timbers. Our two kittens used to love to walk on them like a balance beam.

I was moving craft supplies around the basement and notice a nasty-looking brown liquid seeping from the foundation. It had not been raining recently and there was no snow-melt. A quick phone call to the plumber solved the mystery of the brown gunk-it was a crack in the sewer pipe-which turned out to be the original terra cotta pipe of indeterminate age. They arrived the next day with a Bobcat and proceed to dig up my lovely yard and garden. It is February, but the temps were above freezing so I dug out all my plants to relocate after the plumbers were through.

My lush green “carpet” is now nothing but mud. But when life gives you lemons…as the saying goes. I called my friend who had just moved into her grandmother’s house. Her husband had just dug up & thrown out all the hydrangeas her grandmother had planted because they were all highly allergic to poison ivy and it tended to co-habit with the hydrangeas. They were all laying, bare-root, in a pile waiting for trash day. I lugged them all home-and the rest is history!

Day Dreaming of Spring

It is cold & blustery-(as Winnie the Pooh would say) here today. It in turn has been sunny, snowy & even hailed! I am day dreaming about Spring & how I will plant my garden this year. Last year my color scheme was coral & apple green. Sweet Potato Vine has become a favorite of mine-especially that shocking apple green color. I also like all the variations of Coleus on the market. I have found some interesting begonias as well. They are more exotic & tropical looking that your average wax variety. I also like to use Patio Fuchsia. As we have lots of shade its temperament is perfect for us. Here is a sampling of my garden in the past. Remember it started out as a tangle of ivy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Change is Good

Change is Good

You take for granted all the little niceties that are part of your daily life at home with mom & dad. Electricity, a shower, furniture, a TV. We used to be afraid to leave the house with the lights on. One night our dining room light just sort-of fizzed out! We didn’t have a refrigerator as the present electric could not handle the drain of a modern one or of an electric stove either. Until the electricians had finished, we bought our food from the little market down the street, kept it in a cooler and cooked with a hibachi grill-isn’t love grand! Those claw foot tubs sure are pretty until you are getting ready for work and realize you have to take a bath-because you don’t have a shower! Solved that problem pretty quick by buying an old fashioned ring tub enclosure-yes they still sold them at Sears!

The kitchen was our first interior project on a grand scale. It had a hosier cabinet for cabinet and counter space. I used a card table as my center island. I remember using a heat gun to strip paint off the woodwork and feeling a bit woozy till we opened some windows. Lead paint-who knew!?! I asked hubby to hang a plant in front of the window and it nearly brought the ceiling down on top of him. Apparently the tub had been leaking down through the ceiling for years. The plaster was being held in place by the wallpaper-oops! We hired a contractor and with plans in hand proceeded to change them till he had to revise his original estimate. Now we learned to appreciate the kitchen we already had. Once the electrical work was complete we could have a stove and refrigerator. Now that the room had to be gutted for the new kitchen, the refrigerator was in the sitting room and the stove was pushed against the wall in the dining room-unplugged. What were we going to do for a sink-why the bathtub of course-on the second floor!

Like all projects you start out full of enthusiasm. Midway through you are less enthusiastic, less tolerant, and tired of washing dishes in a plastic basin in your tub. You have grilled every meat in every way you know how and are on a first-name basis with your pizza delivery guy. Your backsplash is held up because the tiny, little accent tile you have chosen is still on its way from Italy. You also think it is a great idea to seal the tile yourself-it will save you a hundred dollars. You don’t count on being on your hands and knees for hours with a minute paint brush cleaning the grout lines of dust partials before you brush on the sealant.

Now being a pro at do-it-yourself, I decide to stain and varnish the tongue-in-groove wood ceiling I have chosen. I am half way through before I realize I have been doing things bass-akward, sealing before staining. Anyway the painted white ceiling in the bedroom looks lovely! We wised up a bit and sent the trim to be professionally dipped & stripped. I stripped the doors myself and refinished them. Let’s say it is not my favorite project.

But in the will be even nicer!

Landscaping 101

Landscaping 101-our first year

Did I mention before I used to be a “high maintenance girl”? Getting together with old friends I hadn’t seen in over 25 years this weekend reminded me of my former “princess” self. They remembered coiffed hair & impossibly high heels-spandex pants-(remember we’re talking disco-era here!) & the latest fashions & manicured nails….That person didn’t exist anymore. The hair-do was a ponytail under a cotton bandanna. Spiky, high heels, not on your life-can’t dig a hole in those. Manicured nails-sigh-even with garden gloves there’s dirt & chips & breaks and short, stubby ones help strip off those ribbons of wallpaper.

Every room in this house was wallpapered-ceilings, closets, hallways. It must have been beautiful in its day-the paper in the front bedroom was clusters of lilacs. Being paper, it was fairly easy to coax off with remover and a good, solid putty knife. I still can remember all that warm, grey water running down my arm scraping ceilings! We now only have one room papered-we have painted everything else.

Our first year in the house, we spent cleaning up the years of over-growth in the yard. We did some interior cosmetic work, but our focus was outside. We were garden center regulars. I learned annuals, perennials, herbs, bulbs, rhizomes, shrubs, ground cover. I learned which plants worshiped the sun, and which were shade dwellers. I learned ages old garden advice-“if you plant it one place and it doesn’t grow-move it somewhere else”. I learned the hard way not to plant mint unless you contain it or you will have a garden of-(you guessed it) mint! Plus if it is catnip, you will have every cat in the neighborhood in your yard!

I learned how to determine if it is a weed or a flower-(my husband still has problems with this one). One year he cut my white lilac almost to the ground. It took years to come back. Another year he ripped out my newly planted sweet peas. When I went looking for my asters this fall, he ruefully admitted he gave them a toss, thinking they were weeds.

Thankfully after we cut down the “weed trees” that covered the front yard-tore out the back yard of ivy and pruned shrubs that were the size of trees, we found the garden had “good bones”. The two brothers who originally lived in the house were at one point in the gardening business. We had lovely old fashioned roses, peonies, double daylilies, lilacs, hollies, and yucca. I brought iris, bridal wreath, red hot poker, & hosta from my parent’s house. When our friends tore out a row of hydrangeas, I saved them from the trash truck and brought them home.

Being young with lots of energy, we made garlands and wreathes for our front porch from our own evergreens for Christmas. We hosted our family’s annual Christmas Eve party for the first time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In The End It All Pays Off

I don't want to scare you off, it is not all 60 AMP electric, no heat, brown running water, broken sewer line, waterfall through the balcony roof...I thought I'd show you some "after" pictures so as not to scare you off. As if there were not enough projects already, in 2006 we added an 800+ square foot addition. What are we nuts? Haven't you guessed that already!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Honeymoon is Over...

We moved into the house after a fast but fun three day honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey. It is still one of our favorite vacation spots and has been since we day-tripped there as teenagers. It also offered so much inspiration for these two "old house virgins". We took pictures of potential color schemes, landscaping, etc. it was going to be a while though before we could give any real attention to decorating.

Our two Moms took charge of house cleaning while we were honeymooning. This was no small task as the house sat empty for six months before we moved in. So we came "home" to a clean house, a bed to sleep in, and a cooler full of drinks-oh and two lawn chairs to sit in. Our friends were happy to help move us in as long as we provided the beer and food on the weekend. In the meantime, hubby borrowed a chainsaw from his Dad, and we cleared the forest otherwise known as our front yard.
Thus I was introduced to "Gardening 101" in a big way-(did I mention I used to be a "High-Maintenance Girl?"). Our front lawn resembled a logging camp when we were finished. I'm sorry now that I didn't take a picture of that one. Three days later when our "movers" arrived, you could actually see the front of the house.