1902 Victorian

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

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Antique or Vintage?

At an antique mall in Georgia, I found a wall-hanging sink with separate hot and cold faucets. It was kinda Art Deco looking, and the faucets looked like chrome - not nickel - with straight lines, no curves.

Does anybody know when the elusive "they" stopped making sinks with separate faucets?

We had a sink with separate faucets in my dorm room in college. That dorm was built in the '20s, I think. Boy was it hard to wash dishes in that thing ... which is why I piled all my dirty dishes underneath and never washed them. Yep, I was a great roommate. ;-)

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's a Hard-Knock Life

Did you know the musical Annie is not about orphans or rich bald billionaires as is commonly believed? It's actually about old house owners! Just look, there's a song for every occasion:

When you're shivering under three blankets in front of the TV, dreading the moment when you have to pull your hand out from under the covers to fast-forward the commercials:

Don't it feel like the wind is always howl'n?
Don't it seem like there's never any light?
Once a day, don't you wanna throw the towel in?
It's easier than puttin' up a fight.

When you're feeling wistful about the life you once led before the house took it over:

Betcha they're young
Betcha they're smart
Bet they collect things
Like ashtrays catalogs, and art paint samples!
Betcha they're good --
(Why shouldn't they be?)
Their one mistake
Was giving up me! Was foregoing a home inspection!

Or when you're away on vacation:

I know I'm gonna like it here
Used to room in a tomb
Where i'd sit and freeze
Get me now, holy cow
Could someone pinch me please.

And when you're feeling that surge of affection for your house that reminds you why you're doing this:

You've wrapped me around
That cute little finger.
You've made life a song ...
You've made me the singer!

When you're at the hardware store mid-project, covered with paint, dust and debris and may or may not have forgotten your deodorant:

Who cares what they're wearing
On Main Street,
Or Saville Row,
It's what you wear from ear to ear
And not from head to toe
(That matters)

If only there were a tool that could clean this easily:

Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
Till there's none!

When you're hoping it will stop raining, so you can finish a project:

When I'm stuck with a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And grin,
And say,

Oh, the sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
I love ya Tomorrow!

And last but not least:

Easy street
Easy street
Where you sleep till noon

Oh wait ... that one doesn't apply at all.

P.S. Guess what musical I'm seeing this weekend at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta?


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Happy Face

Look what was lurking under the bathroom cabinets ...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!! Actually, I think he's sort of cute, but like the cartoon ghosts hanging around in the castles in Mario Brothers games, he's probably got a dark side, too.

As you can see, we now know where the tub was originally. These holes indicate where the hot and cold lines and the drain were (notice the odd offset ... I found a set of pipes with the same offset at Vintage Plumbing, so it's not just a case of bad measuring). Also, on the wall behind the tub are the ghosts of two shelves, and on the wall beside the tub are two round spots that probably indicate where a towel bar was (see pic below with the pink arrows).

Based on this new evidence, our plan is to install the clawfoot tub in its original location. Hey, the holes are already there, so why not? This way, the sink will now be directly across from the toilet and closer to natural light to allow for my beautifying treatments (see the new shoebox arrangement below).

I'm still debating what to do about the sink. We might stick with a pedestal or do a sink-in-old-dresser deal, maybe with a marble top. Not sure. I hoped that when we got the whole bathroom demo'ed and cleared of debris, the right solution would just come to me. So far, nada.

Anyway, I'm happy it's done.

P.S. Check out the cool paper lining the bathroom drawers. Sadly, it is water damaged.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Bathroom Museum

We finally finished the bathroom demo! Are you proud? I'm proud.

We made all sorts of discoveries in this last leg of the demo, particulary one that will change around the whole bathroom layout - for the better, I think.

But I had cat/vet issues this morning, so I didn't have time to upload the pics. Tomorrow, I promise!

Our friend who is renovating the house across the street stopped by to survey our progress this weekend. While there, she mentioned that the two cast iron tubs she took out of her house (she'll be returning them to the house, don't worry!) each had dates stamped on the bottom.

I had the bright idea to get all prison-fabulous and use a mirror to check under our clawfoot tub without having to lift it.

We saw some words, which we couldn't make out, but no date, so Darwin ended up turning the tub on its side anyway. In the end, we found no date, but we did find that the tub was made by Wolff Manufacturing.

So I scurried off to the Internet to see what I could find. I didn't learn much about Wolff because I got distracted by the Vintage Plumbing Web site. The word "vintage" gets applied to everything pre-last week, but the stuff on this site is REALLY AND TRULY antique. I felt giddy browsing through this stuff! Euphoric!

It was like strolling through a bathroom museum. Nevermind that I can't afford one single thing on that site. I'm just glad it exists! After viewing this site - and the latest special findings in the bathroom - I'm even more dedicated to making this room special and as close to original as possible. (though I do draw the line at a high-tank toilet, mostly because I ADORE the toilets in this house)

One of the best features of the site is the page full of scans from Victorian bathroom and kitchen catalogues. Lots of inspiration there!

Now, thanks to that page, I think I want this sconce or one similar to it for the bathroom. It's not even ridiculously expensive!

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Friday, January 20, 2006

The Better to See Myself

I just bought a lovely Eastlake mirror. If I paid too much, I don't want to hear about it, but if it's a bargain feel free to tell me so. ;)

Either way, I adore it. Don't know where I'll hang it yet - could be for the much-discussed bathroom, or it would look nice in the dining room or hallway.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

eBay is Always the Answer

I know the placement of the sink is a little awkward. Too much space around it or something. The Home Improvement Ninja suggests an old vanity or dresser with a hole cut in it for sink.

Something like thiiiis perhaps? How much do I love eBay?

The only trouble is all the good furniture on eBay is in some faraway place like Ashland, Ohio. I don't want to pay $360 to ship the thing here, thanks.

At the same time, the thought of cutting a big round hole in a perfectly good Eastlake dresser makes me feel a little queasy. That's why this one on eBay appeals so much - the damage has already been done. All I'd have to do would be enjoy the benefits.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Thanks, Greg, for pointing out that my last post was behaving strangely. It took forever to publish, so I'm not surprised something was weird with it. I hope it is working now after a re-publish.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Message in a Shoebox

Lately, I've had a little trouble picturing the end result of our bathroom remodel. I've felt lost, afraid to make any of these big decisions that will affect us and our house for many years to come.

But when I was in the shower on Sunday, I got an idea. I always get my best ideas in the shower, so I have high hopes for this one.

I'm building a dollhouse, right? I have miniature bathroom fixtures for it, right? Hmmm, our bathroom is a long rectangle. I just happen to have quite a collection of shoeboxes. (I have quite a collection of shoes, too, but that's a story for another day.) The shoeboxes I always hang onto because they have so many handy uses. They're the perfect size for so many things.

Like miniature 1-foot-to-1-inch scale bathroom models!

I found a shoebox that's the perfect size and hunted through my dollhouse stuff for the appropriate fixtures. I found a sink, toilet and clawfoot tub, but the vanity I found was more like a highboy and looked ridiculously huge in the bathroom.

So I improvised with a folded piece of paper.

Here's the result:

It's not much to look at, I know. But the point of it was to allow us to rearrange the fixtures and furniture any way we pleased. I wanted to make sure we weren't overlooking some arrangement because the current arrangement was stuck in our minds.

But the thing we found is that this IS the best arrangement. Sure, we could move the tub to the opposite wall (switching toilet and tub), so it would get less interference from the window. Sure, we could move the sink over by the toilet. But none of these things would be much better, and they would require lots of replumbing and hole-cutting-in-original-wood-floors. Let's all chant Greg's rule: Never cut old wood.

So I think we'll keep it like this. Next question: what to do with the space on either side of the sink? My original plan called for two tall built-in cabinets, one on either side of the pedestal sink.

Now I'm not sure if that's practical or if it would look weird. Maybe it would be better to put some kind of little table with shelves for towels and stuff between the sink and tub. Also, I'd love to squeeze in a hamper somewhere.

So waddya think, folks, now that you see it in 3D? Suggestions? Ideas? Warnings?

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Friday, January 13, 2006

The Room of Requirement

Today I was playing around with the arrangement of objects in our bathroom on HGTV's room layout tool, and I discovered something disturbing.

If we do everything I planned on my old graph paper sketch, there will be no place for a towel bar!

This is very distressing because I am a person who requires a towel bar. I am a person who requires everything to be easily in reach and who is deeply annoyed by inconvenience. Let's face it - I'm a primadonna.

This towel bar discovery is making me a little nervous. People keep trying to tell me clawfoot tubs are no fun to take a shower in because you have nowhere to set your stuff, and the shower curtains blow in on you.

This will be our main shower in the house. We will use it every day. Are we going to regret this?

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Take a Swim in East Lake

Yesterday I spent a good chunk of time browsing eBay, narrowing my search only with the category Antique and the search term Eastlake. I found some really cool stuff.

On the beadboard is the outline of some kind of shelf that once hung at about head height (my head - 5'4"ish). Like this clock shelf. It's exactly the right shape for the space - long shelf on top, longer-than-usual, narrow brackets holding it up.

I debated buying it for a while, but it's kinda beat up, and that's the very spot I plan to put my vanity. A real vintage/antique vanity with a little stool I can spin around on to gesticulate to Darwin as he brushes his teeth at the sink.

Speaking of stools, I found this darling and lovely piano stool. Sadly, it's in Connecticut, and it looks like it wants to be more expensive than I want it to be. Oh well, I guess it's really too pretty to relegate to a bathroom anyway.

Then there's the shaving mirror with towel bar and the walnut towel rack. Somebody please come up with an excuse for me to buy at least one of these!

As for things I actually have bought, check out these sash lifts:

And these weird-but-neato glass sofa glides:

Also, a co-worker has offered me a pristine-condition 1955 cast iron wall sink. I'm going to take a look. Though a wall sink wasn't what I had in mind for our master bath, it could potentially work for the half bath when we get around to that.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Birth of a Bathroom

The first house in Eutaw built with a bathroom in the plans was Magnolia on Main across the street, built in 1904. I imagine our home's owner Mary Julia Dunlap gazing across the street at her neighbor's house as it went up and thinking, "A bathroom inside? Darnit, why didn't I think of that?"

Worse still would be the fact that only two years before, MJ had left the comfort of the magnificent two-story Victorian she'd shared with her late banker husband for this - the little 5-room, center-hall Folkster her new farmer hubby could afford. It just wasn't fair, I tell you! That first house had more bedrooms than her new house had rooms!

Then would start the quiet hints to her husband, Clay. "Did you hear they're getting a bathroom across the street? Right next to the bedroom upstairs! Can you imagine?"

And Clay, who is always the villain in my story because of the disappearing/reappearing-in-another-county act he pulls circa 1930, would say, "Hmph" and mutter something about "newfangled" and "putting on airs."

But eventually our MJ got her way, as we womenfolk tend to do. How else could Farmer Clay compete with the memory of Banker James?

The question is when. Knowing what I know of small towns, women, the South and Eutaw in particular, MJ couldn't have stood it for long.

So I think the porch-to-bathroom conversion came very early in our house's life. Later, three more rooms and a new porch were added, along with a considerable extension of the center hall, all by 1925.

The bathroom naturally went through several changes in the 65 years it belonged to MJ, many of which we haven't puzzled out yet.

Central to the puzzle is the window. When was it installed? The window has weights. When did windows with weights stop being installed? The most recent bathroom reno happened in the late '60s or early '70s. Did they find a salvaged window and replace the taller one? Or was this window already altered before the Parkins came along?

Then, maybe I shouldn't worry so much. I think MJ wouldn't. She'd peep through the curtains at her neighbor's house, and say, "Darnit, why didn't I think of that?"

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Tell Me a Story

In this month's issue of Old House Journal, an article cites six reasons why it's great to live in an old house. One of the reasons is that every time you undertake a project, you discover new things about your house.

It's amazing how many layers we've uncovered in one room, in one 104-year-old house.

On the beadboard there are at least three different colors of paint (it's hard to tell if there are three or four because some areas are discolored). The first layer was a cream color, then charcoal gray, then beige, then possibly a different shade of beige.

Present in the paint are shapes that tell a story of what the bathroom once looked like. The square of charcoal where the toilet was. One long horizontal line with two vertical lines underneath - a shelf?

The latest discovery is the beadboard under the little patch of slanted ceiling at the end of the room. You can also see the cedar shingles above it that once formed the roof.

I've always thought of this room as an addition to the house, but now I wonder if it is part of the original 5-room-plus-hall construction. The bathroom pokes out from the main house about 18 inches and has its own little gabled roof. But these two mysterious boards cutting into the beadboard had us confused.

Then Darwin came up with a solution that I think makes a lot of sense. Maybe at one time the bathroom was a lean-to porch with a ceiling that began at the top edge of the beadboard on the left wall and slanted up to meet the beadboard on the right wall somewhere above the point where the ceiling was lowered to.

That probably makes no sense in writing, but standing there in the bathroom it is the perfect explanation.

Now to figure out what they did with the window. We can't figure out if they somehow cut down and rebuilt the original window or if they replaced it with a shorter window of similar style. Also, we're trying to figure out whether we should try to restore it to a window of the proper size.

The window looks weird and misshapen now, but we figured out that's because the bottom piece of trim under the window sill is missing. If we added a piece of trim, the window would at least look complete.

But then I think about the outside - if we one day decide to remove the aluminum siding on that part of the house (which I hope to do), we'll have to make some kind of repair to the hole where the bottom part of the window once was.

So many decisions to make that affect so many other things.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Vote for Me for Cheeto Queen

One of the main drags about living on the main drag of Eutaw is the trash. We often find plastic grocery bags stuck in our bushes or potato chip bags in the leaves under our magnolias.

I am not a littering person and never have been. In 11th grade, one of the most popular girls in school took me under her wing. If I'd stuck with her, maybe I could've joined the upper echelons of high school and become Homecoming queen and dated football players, like in every teen makeover story that ever was.

But the first time I went out with her and her friends, they got dinner at a fast food place and then threw all the trash out the window. They didn't give it a second thought; they didn't debate what to do with it first. Chunking it all out the window was their first and only reaction.

I couldn't be their friend after that. Okay, there were other reasons, too. But the moment the wadded paper bag flew out the window, I knew they were not my kind of people.

So what kind of people throw out trash on someone's lawn? I can see a little more how people distance themselves from the harm they're doing when littering on the Interstate or deep in the country. It's unsightly and makes the whole city/state look bad, but it seems to affront no individual person.

But how can they justify depositing paper cups and food wrappers on my lawn? And why is it always Cheetos? There is no justifying it or explaining it. It's plain inconsiderate.

I will say it right now - those people suck. I will never hang out with those people, not even if they offer to set me up with the quarterback.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Whirlpool of Overpricedness

I just found the single coolest item for clawfoot tub owner/users. It's from *gasp* Pottery Barn. I know, I know - Pottery Barn is the evil vortex at the center of our meaningless, consumer-driven lives, blah blah blah.

How can I resist getting sucked in? The bed linens are so cheerfully crisp! The furniture and lamps are so antique-styled!

But above all, this item they call the Mercer Bath System is just neato. It's a long nickel towel bar you hang beside the tub, and little hooks and baskets hang from it, so you can have your bathing supplies handy. So practical! And darn if it isn't cute, too. (It's even cuter in that sneaky catalog, where they show a full bathroom scene complete with wood floors!)

Oh no, I feel it drawing me in ... I better step away from the computer before I do something rash.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Potty Rot

In our vigorous demolition of the bathroom this weekend, we made many discoveries. Some are good, some not so good.

The floor is both. Under the green carpet and plywood of the sink area, the original painted pine floor suffers only from a few nail holes. The brown paint is still smooth and lovely under all the drywall dust.

Under the tile and 3-4 inches of concrete in the tub-and-toilet area, the floor is a little rougher and the paint much more chipped. Still, most of it is perfectly good.

But, like the girl with the curl, when it is not very good indeed it is horrid. For example, the previous owners moved the toilet from one wall of a corner to the other, so the toilet faces a different way, leaving an extra several-inches-wide round hole in the floor next to the toilet opening.

Don’t ask me why they did this. Maybe they wanted to be able to admire the view of the fig tree out the window while they did their business. Maybe it made them feel one with nature, giving back to creation or something. Maybe they figured, “Heck, we’re covering this whole floor with concrete. What fool would tear that out?”

Whatever their reasoning, the hole is there, along with a toilet-shaped patch of gray paint on the wall.

But worse than the hole is the fact that whoever cut the hole for the second toilet placement, cut straight through the middle of a floor board, leaving one section of it totally unsupported and free to rot beautifully. The layer of concrete evened out the pressure on the boards, I guess, but if it had not been there, no way the toilet would’ve withstood a 21st-century-size person. The only thing holding it up would’ve been one poor, overworked board.

We have extra floor boards in the attic, so replacing these few in the corner will be no big deal. Still, it’s disconcerting seeing big patches of dirt through my bathroom floor.

Which brings me to another hole. A largish rectangle was cut in the floor under the tub to accommodate the drain pipe. I was hoping to move the tub toward the sink end of the room by a foot or so, but I loathe the thought of cutting another big swath in the floor. I don’t want new owners coming along in 30 years, ripping out all the things we did and saying, “My God, why would they mess up the floor this way over a difference of one foot?!”

The demo is close to finished – probably will be finished after this weekend if we can get in one good work day – and that leaves me with an almost-blank canvas to think about. It’s already turning into a much different bathroom than I anticipated when I first began planning this room. About this time last year, I posted, "At this rate, we'll be lucky if we can decide what to DO with the bathroom by next year."

I know myself well, huh?

We now have painted wood floors, beadboard on the walls – about 60 percent usable so far, I estimate – and a clearer picture of what the bathroom once was.

It’s hard to contemplate imposing my own vision and sensibilities on a room like that. I have to find a balance between my desire for a pretty, usable bathroom and my desire to change nothing. I'm not even sure anymore if we should tear out the existing 1960s cabinet/sink (and replace with a pedestal) or just repaint/hardware/countertop it.

My hope is that when all the demo is finished, I will lean against one wall, and the whole plan will unfold before me, perfect and complete.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006


At first I worried about our 1960s cast iron tub. It's a perfectly good tub - slightly worse for the wear since we knocked concrete, drywall, broken tiles and nails into it - and I hated to just throw it out on the curb. So wasteful.

Then our friends D&K, who we recruited to help us move the blasted thing out of the bathroom, told us not to worry. Someone would pick it up off the curb. Maybe a farmer would get it to use as a trough. Maybe a gardener would want to fill it with compost and start seeds in it.

This notion comforted me, but still I fretted. Then we deposited the tub next to the large pile of debris at the edge of the lawn at about 4:30 p.m. yesterday. This morning at 7:37 it was gone.

Somewhere out there in the world, our tub has a new life. And so does our bathroom:



*The spell in Harry Potter's world that makes things disappear.