Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adventures in Home Improvement

our house in 2010

We have done a lot to our house since we moved in seventeen years ago.  (Seventeen years?  I had to count them, and that just does not seem possible!  Where did that chunk of lifetime go?)  

Our house was built around 1902 and, as best as we can tell, we are only the third family to live in it.  The stability of long ownership prevented a lot of “muddling” over the years, but there have still been improvements and repairs needed.  Like a complete tear-off of five layers of roof – including the original wood shakes from the turn of the century; rewiring the attic; putting a darkroom in the basement (that was before widespread use of digital!); ripping out carpet; taking off wallpaper from every room of the house – including some scary, thorny pink roses the previous owner hung in our bedroom in the 1940s when she was a girl; adding central air conditioning; slightly reconfiguring the kitchen so that the refrigerator is actually in the kitchen; stripping woodwork; painting; etc.; and that’s just on the inside!  

new dining room light
We have slowed down in recent years, until lately.  Recently, we discovered a fabulous independent electrician, so we had him repair some wiring and replace two outside lights and three indoor fixtures.  Nothing fancy, just some nice fixtures from Lowe’s, but they are pretty, they work, and they provide good light.  None of the three fixtures we replaced could meet all of those criteria.  

In addition to lighting improvements, there’s the little bathroom.  There is a tiny, narrow bathroom in what used to be an apartment in our house.  We were told the room was added during the Depression to house a family member who was down and out.  When we bought the house, it came with a very nice young woman as a tenant in the apartment.  After about a year, she moved.  I think the change from a quiet, elderly landlady to a raucous family with two young children was too much for her.  She confessed that she had taken to using earplugs to sleep.  Anyway, when she moved, we reclaimed the apartment as an office and second family room.  The bathroom was always awkward, with a funky half-sized tub shower half under a window.  When the bathroom developed a leak, we decided to finally tackle the larger issue and reconfigure the whole thing.  I wrote back in August about this never-ending bathroom remodel (which is almost finished!) which necessitated the removal of the ceiling in the butler’s pantry.  

That poor ceiling.  When we moved into our house, the butler’s pantry ceiling had been lowered to about 7 ½ feet.  It rested on top of the cabinets.  Hmm, must be a reason, we thought.  Falling plaster, pipes, something.  Nope.  So we ripped it out and raised it about sixteen inches to match the height of the kitchen ceiling.  Now, with our bathroom remodel, the pipes extend below the floor above, so the ceiling had to be dropped again, but not as much as before.  Replacing the ceiling has not been on the top of the repair list, as the husband has focused his limited spare time on the bathroom itself.  Then two weeks before Christmas, the wonderful electrician introduced us to an equally wonderful independent carpenter, so voila!  In a matter of a few days, we had a new, albeit unfinished, ceiling in the butler’s pantry.  (It is amazing how much better and faster professionals can do this work!)  Unfortunately, he could not mud the corners where the ceiling meets the walls because we have wallpaper on the walls.  That has to be removed before mudding or it won’t be coming off.  (I’m really sad to lose the wallpaper; it’s a simple chicken wire pattern in taupe and cream.  Can’t find a match online.  Oh well.)  

But before removing wallpaper, we needed to prime the ceiling.  That’s where I come in.  Yesterday, I felt motivated.  With only one slight disaster, the ceiling got a coat of Kilz.  Yay!

(Here's evidence of the minor disaster.  I stepped down the wrong way off the stepstool, hit the edge of the paint pan, which flipped up and splashed paint on my leg and the cabinet.  This is oil-based paint, mind you, so I had to run down to the basement to get some paint thinner for a quick cabinet clean-up.  What a mess!)

cute Con-tact paper from Target
Then my daughter and I took everything out of the cabinets to clean out all the plaster bits, wood slivers and even a few nails that had fallen into the cabinets when the old ceiling was torn down.  We washed everything and replaced the shelf paper with a cute green and white print.  Gorgeous!  

Of course, when we remove the wallpaper and the final mudding is done, there will be some additional mess, but I hope to seal the cabinets off to prevent seepage of dust and paper bits.  We’ll see.  At least it looks great for now.

clean, organized, and a ceiling to boot!


  1. What a beautiful house! We have a lot of late 18- early 1900s houses where I go to school... they all have their own character and charm.

  2. Gorgeous home! Happy New Year:) Kala here with my new blog:

  3. Wow this is a beautiful home. Where in the south is this?

    <3 from bloggin' buddies

  4. Oh my gracious! Your cabinets are gorgeous! Love it! As for your paint mishap, it's pretty much a known fact that if we are painting, I WILL step in it and track it around. It NEVER fails! I'm such a klutz!

  5. Your home is lovely. Happy New Year!!!

  6. Your house is beautiful! It's amazing that we survive renovations and then are willing to do more! Our bathroom reno was supposed to take three weeks. It took three months! You can imagine the stories!

    A very happy new year to you and your family!!

  7. I would love to have an old house to work on! but, alas, my hubby wouldn't enjoy it!

  8. I'm sure it will be gorgeous when done. But, wow, what a lot of work! I have done some house renovations myself over the years. The drastic ones, though, have been in houses bought to resell.


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