1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Lost in Improvement

When people visit our house for the first - or fifth - time, they tend to get a little lost. When my dad was helping us move, I'd say, "That goes in the front bedroom," and he'd go to each bedroom in turn and say, "This one?" No, Dad, the front bedroom.

It's not like four bedrooms is so very many, but I think the layout of our house confuses people. To me, the wide center hall spanning the length of the house with bedrooms lined up on one side and laundry, office, kitchen, dining, living in orderly succession on the other seems perfectly natural. But to people who've never lived in an old house, I guess it feels like a labyrinth ... all the doors in each room leading to who knows where (our bedroom, the office and the kitchen each have three doors).

Now I'm beginning to understand how they feel - only in a figurative sense. I feel lost in my own house. The rooms, of course, are second nature to me now, and I navigate them nightly in the dark after Darwin has gone to bed.

But we have so many projects - all in various stages of planning or progress - that I can't see a clear path through them anymore. So I'm going to make a list to be my map back to sanity. What's finished, what's half done, what's left to be done (the urgent things are starred). Here goes:

  • Workshop cleaned out and rendered usable
  • Ugly '70s built-in desk demolished.
  • Removed old stove vent and installed microwave.
  • Installed dishwasher (thank God).
  • Removed old sink and faucet and installed new.
  • Installed trim on kitchen cabinet faces.

    (Gee, this list is impressive)

  • Guest bathroom painted and towel bar installed, but trim needs painting
  • Stripping wood trim in entry hall
  • Pulled up hideous green rug in master bedroom and waxed part of the floor
  • Red living room needs another coat of paint (one day ...)
  • Got a little more painting to do on the kitchen trim*
  • Installed most of the cabinet knobs in kitchen*
  • Installed disposal but need to hook it up to electricity*
  • Fixed leaky gutter (twice), but it still needs more work
  • Gutted overgrown yard, but still have more weeds to deal with in front bed

    Left to be done:
  • Choose and install kitchen countertops and backsplash*
  • Rewire and install vintage lighting in kitchen (bought from eBay)*
  • Rip out vinyl in kitchen and refinish original pine floors
  • Paint or wallpaper kitchen walls and ceiling
  • Paint dining room (because the living room is really showing it up now)
  • Scrape and paint front porch floor*
  • Paint front door and window trim
  • Repair and paint shutters
  • Insulate under the rooms that weren't insulated by POs (but it's too darn hot for that right now)*
  • Rip out master bathroom tile and tub, cabinet and dividing wall
  • Install new master bathroom tile, clawfoot tub/shower and pedestal sink
  • New master bathroom lighting
  • Build walk-in closet adjacent to master bath
  • Rip out horrible added-in closet in master bedroom
  • Paint master bedroom
  • Paint center section of hall with mold-resistant paint. (yum)*
  • Paint back section of hall grey to match the color it used to be.
  • Repair a piece of outdoor cornice that fell off before rodents decide to move into our attic.*
  • Remove horribly ugly half-bath countertop and cabinet; replace with something less hideous, please
  • Oh this is a biggie ... jack up foundation in guest bedroom.*
  • Repair giant crack in guest bedroom wall and paint the room a non-pukey color.
  • Sandblast and repaint cast iron fireplace cover we found under the house
  • Plant flower bed beside driveway (this is gonna be next year, I can see that now)
  • Okay, I'm feeling really depressed now because this list keeps growing longer and longer and longer.

    I'm sure other folks have much more horrendous lists than mine. It's not so bad. It's not so bad. It's not so bad.

    I think I would feel better if we were actually going to do some work on it this weekend. But tonight I'm scrapbooking with the girls, while Darwin does whatever guys do with the guys. And tomorrow I'm going to an antique auction (yes, finally! And I'm going with experienced auction-attendees, thank goodness), while Darwin goes to a singing.

    So the only day left is Sunday. I was hoping to buy paint for the dining room this week and persuade Darwin to help me paint this weekend. But once I found out about the auction, I thought maybe I'll find a rug or something to be my inspiration. I'm having serious struggles with the dining room color, and if I don't find inspiration, I'll be posting photos here and asking begging for advice.

    Okay, now I'm going to comfort myself by reading about other people's projects.


  • Tuesday, July 26, 2005

    Moldy Moulding

    Oh boy, we have a mold problem. I noticed it yesterday afternoon - an unbearably hot day in a week of unbearably hot days - when condensation on the transom window over our bedroom door caught my eye. I went over for a closer look and noticed black spots of mold all over the white-painted wood around and above the window. My eyes traveled higher - oh no, the mold continued up the wall, onto the ceiling. I whirled and saw that it continued - to a lesser degree - on the wood panel thingy over the French doors and even on the beadboard underside of the upper stairs.

    I ran up to the attic - ok, trudged once I met a near-solid wall of hot air - to check for leaks but saw nothing. I broke out in a sweat within seconds of entering the attic, so I skedaddled out of there quickly.

    Here's the room in question, though this picture was taken last summer when there appeared to be no mold issues:

    Darwin was on his way home when I noticed the mold, and I pointed it out to him when he got there. He noticed that the heat from the attic stairs or just from heat rising, whatever, began exactly where the mold began around the top third of the room. I could reach my arm over my head and feel the strata of heat above. It doesn't help that there's no A/C vent in this particular segment of the hall (the middle section), so it's slightly hotter than the other places in the house.

    The trouble is, short of cleaning off the mold over and over, I'm not sure what to do to stop this from happening. The hardware is missing to work the transom window, so I wonder if it would help the condensation if we bought some new hardware from Van Dyke's and kept the transom open (we keep the doors to the bedroom closed to prevent cat hair from accumulating all over our bed). Maybe that would help the cool air circulate better?

    I've also considered painting the whole area with that mold- and moisture-resistant paint they sell for bathrooms. And there's an attic fan we tried out last year, but the motor started smoking. Would an attic fan - with a new motor - help?

    Oh dear, what do we do?

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    Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    Compare and Contrast

    I've had a request for comparison photos of the two different brands of hex tiles I'm considering.

    Here are the tiles from American Universal, $7.95/square foot for 1.5-inch:

    And the Iron Gate ones from Meredith Tile (sold at SubwayTile.com), $19.20/square foot for 3-inch:

    I don't see much difference between them from these photos. I wish I could see and touch these tiles in person, but the nearest dealer of the Iron Gate tiles is two hours away, and no one around here stocks the other kind. That I know of anyway. One of our neighbors installed 1-inch hex on their bathroom floor ... I need to ask them where they got it from.


    Monday, July 18, 2005


    Happy 24th birthday to me! OK, now that that's out of the way, I can tell you that I made yet another math mistake. But this one actually worked out in my favor. I had been doing all that tile calculation from work (naughty, bad me), so the 29 square feet of tile needed for the countertop was just an estimation. Lucky me, in real life it's only 24 (serendipitous, huh?) square feet. That means the expensive tile would cost $460.80, and the cheaper tile would cost $190.80. A difference of $270 between the two.

    I told Darwin about the easier-to-clean factor, and he seemed to agree that it might be worth the extra $270. Another bonus is the SubwayTile.com Web site is easier to navigate and easier to order from than American Universal Corp.

    But then I looked at the SubwayTile.com edge pieces and found they cost $10.47 each ... which would mean another $376.92. Oh dear. If we got the cushioned-edge American Universal tiles, we could buy any old generic V-shaped edge molding.

    So I guess non-authentic it is.

    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Me Good at Math

    Turns out I was a little off on my numbers for the tiled countertops. The only place I can find 3-inch hexagon tile is SubwayTile.com, or a local place that sells the same brand, Iron Gate by Meredith Tile.

    These are awesome tiles without cushioned edges (so they're more like the originals), but they cost $19.20 per square foot. I estimate we have about 29 square feet of counterspace to cover, so that's $556.80 ... hmmm, not such a huge savings over the $900 granite as I thought.

    I did find some 1.5-inch hexagon tile (with cushioned edges) at American Universal Corp., and it's only $7.95 per square foot. That would make a total of $230.55. Now that's more like it.

    But are we willing to sacrifice the look we want - though I don't think 1.5 would be bad - and the non-cushioned edges for a savings of *clickety click on the calculator* ... $326.55?

    Maybe. I wish I didn't have to worry about a measly-to-some $326.55. But we had to raid our house fund to pay for Darwin's $1,200 speeding mistake. Now we need to carefully consider every dollar.

    But I have a question before we can decide. Would the cushioned edges make the tile easier or more difficult to clean? If it would be easier, I know my decision. If it would be more difficult, then we would have to decide whether easier to clean would be worth $326.55.

    I've heard that the flat edges let the grout fill the spaces between tiles better or something like that ... like the tiles form a flatter surface. Is that true?

    Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    Countertop Debate: Part 7,426

    I know we've been over and over this countertop issue, but now I have new evidence.

    Last night I went to Home Depot to poke around the cabinet department. There I found two shades of black granite, one black Silestone and one charcoal Corian. They all looked nice, but they all cost $55-65 per foot, installed.

    That didn't sound so bad until I got home and measured and added up how much that would cost: somewhere around $900.

    $900 probably doesn't sound too bad to many of you. To others - like me - it sounds like a black hole. Especially for countertops that aren't my ideal choice.

    But waiting for me in the mailbox at home was another idea. On the cover and inside the new Rejuvenation catalog, what should I see but a countertop tiled with 3-inch (I think) hexagon tiles and a black border. Look, it's even on top of white painted cabinets like ours (click on the pic for a larger version):

    I don't know about you guys, but I think this countertop and subway tile backsplash look awesome!

    Okay, we discussed tiled countertops before, and I got a lot of anti-tile advice. And I decided I didn't want to deal with grout. But for a $600 savings (seriously), I think it's worth it.

    Darwin is going to talk to his tiling-expert friend today and find out just how well that grout sealer really works. And I'm thinking about a black or dark grout, so stains wouldn't show anyway, right?

    Eeeeeeeee, I'm actually excited about this idea. A tiled countertop looks so vintage compared to sleek black granite (and isn't so darn heavy). Besides, anything we can install ourselves gets my vote.

    And who wouldn't want a kitchen this gorgeous (click pic for larger version)?

    Now you might be wondering, "What happened to the wood countertops idea?" I still love wood countertops, but there are more logistical things to figure out - how do we make them, for one - and, more importantly, there's the fact that I would like to have new countertops some time this century.

    If I have to rely on Darwin, who doesn't really want wood countertops, to figure out how to make them and then actually do it, I might be heading to a nursing home before it's done.

    He can wrap his mind around tiling. He has a plan to get it done.

    So I think we will just do it.


    Monday, July 11, 2005

    We Survived!

    And, almost as important, our house survived, too! We got a lot of wind and rain, but our property suffered nothing more than a few twigs and leaves knocked off the trees. Even the tomato plants are intact.

    But, just after the guests of our impromptu hurricane party left, we lost power at about 9:30 last night. It was great fun showering in the dark this morning. And I had no service on my cell, so I didn't know for sure if I'd have to work today (I do).

    I stepped outside this morning to see if the service was better, and there were our new guests hanging out on the workshop porch like they owned the place. An orange and white mama cat and her two kittens - one gray and one orange. The orange kitten reminds me so much of our Alistair when he was a baby. He's the boldest of the three, always the last to dash away under the workshop when we approach. We've been leaving canned catfood out for them. I have high hopes of befriending at least the orange baby.

    Believe it or not, we actually got something accomplished on the house yesterday. We sanded the drywall repairs on the guest bathroom wall and then painted the room yellow. I bought this fancy faux finishing kit with a double tray and double sponge roller. But the two shades of yellow paint I bought were a little too close in color, so you can't really tell it was faux finished at all. Oh well. At least it's not that dingy peachy-off white color anymore.

    Again, I sure wish I could show you a picture. :(


    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    Hurricane Prep

    Today we battened down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Dennis. Though we are about 200 miles northwest of the expected landfall, there is an inland hurricane warning for our county and the surrounding ones. That means there will be hurricane-force winds here ... supposedly around 2 a.m. today.

    The outer bands of the hurricane are just reaching us. The first big gust of wind started outside when I began writing this. Oh, and there was the first thunder.

    I'm usually not worried about this sort of thing. In Alabama (maybe everywhere else, too), the news stations love to play up a tornado or hurricane. Ivan was supposedly going to be terrible up here, but we got no more than a few leaves blown off the trees.

    Still, Dennis is heading right for us, so for once we did the appropriate preparations ... securing the patio furniture, closing the shutters. As Darwin was closing one shutter, the top hinge came loose from the window frame, so he took it down and stowed it in the workshop. Our shutters seem to be disintegrating before our eyes anyway ... that's one of the issue we need to address before we do an exterior painting Work Day.

    Anyway, I'm off to watch the all hurricane, all the time channel. Wish us luck. :)

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    Little Worker Bees

    Gracious, this has been a whirlwind week. The plant where Darwin works is closed for the week, so he has been at home. I wanted to take a day or two off myself, but things have been too crazy at work. In the evenings, we've done stuff with our fun and wonderful neighbors (hi, guys!) three nights in a row. On leftover night, my 4th of Cream Cheese cake even got devoured - hurray!

    On his days off, Darwin has done a little work on the house. He put up more of the cabinet knobs, and he worked yesterday on wiring my dollhouse. His birthday present to me is to finish the wiring. Woo-hoo! It's only been a year since we started it. Let's see ... 10 days left till my birthday!

    Saturday we're planning to help our neighbors S&B put up a fence to hold in their three adorable pups. Last night, we helped them prime the front of their house. It's funny how work doesn't feel like work when you're with friends.

    Soon it will time for our work day ... we're the ones holding it up. We have to do the preparation work so the Work Day Club of Eutaw can have something to do when they get to our house. But we suck at preparation. So our front porch continues to languish.

    As for the broken light and the broken digital camera, neither issue is resolved yet. I'm working on it. *Sigh*

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    Tuesday, July 05, 2005


    This was not my best weekend ever. I did get to see my sister (who recently moved to the faraway land of Carollton, Georgia), but other than that nothing seemed to go right.

    On Saturday, the first of a few vintage chandeliers I bought from eBay arrived. Whoopeee! I was so excited. Opened the box and found THIS:

    Yep, it broke in shipping. The person I bought it from didn't wrap the shade separately from the metal part. Very smart. So now I'm sad about a lovely old shade getting broken, and I'm annoyed that I have to deal with this.

    Sunday was fairly uneventful other than a weird pain in my shoulder. (but now I'm just whining)

    Monday at Darwin's family event, my digital camera broke. From the Amazon reviews, this sort of problem is common for this camera, but that doesn't make me feel any better. The lens got stuck or something, and it says Error # Somethingorother on the screen and to check the user guide. What does the user guide say on this subject? Call customer service. Wonderful.

    So, yes, I am pitching a little foot-stomping fit right now. I am addicted to my digital camera (as you've probably noticed), and I'm still sad about the broken light. And I have a headache. And not enough people ate my cake.

    Oh wait, I thought of something good ... Darwin installed the first two cabinet knobs, and they look great. He also put on the last of the cabinet doors. The kitchen is lovely!

    I'd show you, but there's that digital camera problem again.

    Monday, July 04, 2005

    4th of Cream Cheese

    Happy 4th! Had to show off the cake I made for Darwin's family gathering today. I don't cook much, so when I do it's a cause for celebration. Cream cheese frosting ... mmmmm.