Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Laundry Room

I've begun to plot out what I want to get accomplished in the house during the coming months of warm weather. There are so many things, but the primary accomplishment must be the installation of a laundry room. Since we moved in August of 2008, we have been either driving in to Great Barrington to do our laundry there, or we have gone up the street to a friend whose house serves as a weekend home. He offered us the use of his laundry since he was not there most of the time. Much more convenient than driving into town, but there is the driving up and down the street when what I'm really wanting to do is sit at home do nothing or concentrate at some other important task at hand. So, a laundry room it is.

The room that we are going to make the laundry room was originally the bathroom. I can't say that it was the bathroom when the house was built because I'm not sure as I sit here and write this that this part of the upstairs existed when the house was first built. There was at least one addition some years after the house was first completed. And if there wasn't a bath in this part of the house when the house was first built, I don't know where the bath would have been downstairs. In 1897 this house most likely had an outhouse, so the bath may have been a tub in the kitchen. Not sure.

Anyway, I do know that the room in question was an old bathroom. Sometime in the 50s (?), the proverbial "they" took what had been a bedroom, and probably that of the maid, and converted it into a bathroom, and that's a whole other post.

I started working on this room last year before I decided to change my focus to whipping the bedrooms back into a living condition. In the photo below, you see one of the two doors which gives entrance to this room. The other door is right behind me as I take the picture. The door you're looking at would have given the family access to the bathroom, while the door behind me would have given the maid access.  Notice that the top panel of the door is one solid panel. It had originally been a large pane of translucent glass, I suspect. When I strip and refinish the door, I'm going to have a translucent piece of glass reinstalled. 
The wallpaper was a bear to remove. You can see that it was shiny. The surface was hard and was not very permeable by water or wallpaper remover. So tiny bit by tiny bit I went.  Took me a good while to do it because it was so difficult and tedious.

Below is the second door.  Both will be beautiful when stripped and refinished. They will look like Mickey's bedroom door, with the same kind of beautiful brass hardware and black porcelain doorknobs.

The wainscoting goes all the way around the room and originally had been stained and varnished. At some point the painted over it, and now the paint has all cracked and separated since the slick varnish service wasn't happy with being painted.  So when the weather warms and I can open the windows, I will strip off the old paint with the intent of then sanding the wainscoting and repainting it. Because of all the groves, I doubt that I'll get the wainscoting clean enough to be happy with leaving it unpainted. I'm fairly certain I will end up repainting it after I give it a good sanding.
The light that is hanging in the photo below has been removed. The light box is now in the center of the room with a temporary fixture.  I think that I'm going to refurbish the old hanging light and use it in the bathroom that I want to install in the old butler's pantry which is located just below this room.

When I got the paper off, the picture below shows what was beneath. While in Mickey's bedroom, the plaster was completely bare, these walls have had some sort of treatment over them. I don't know if it was a form of Venetian plaster where tint is added to the plaster and then skim coated over the base plaster wall, or if the covering is some sort of paint. It is very thick and hard, but not in any kind of salvageable condition. The walls are horribly cracked and the treatment, whatever it is, is chipping off. 

The photo below shows the ceiling to be in the same peeling condition as Mickey's bedroom. I don't know what to do really. For the time being I may just scrap the walls and scrap the ceiling and be done with it and consider plaster repair in all the upstairs room one summer project. I don't mind the walls being in crazy shape as long as the rooms are safe and liveable.  

 The floor had originally been a beautiful pine floor. At some point they covered it with a linoleum, and my guess is that this stuff was one of the very first versions of linoleum.  I've pulled it all up and am now faced with the old adhesive and a couple of tin patched holes. I'm confident that I can clean all the adhesive off and return the wood floors to the former glory, however, but I'm not sure what I'll do with the two holes that appear to have been cut into the floor for access to the plumbing for the sink and the toilet. I pulled up the tin sheeting to find the cavity stuffed with old newspapers. The newspapers were yellow and brittle, but I was able to unfold them enough to discover Eisenhower was campaigning for the presidency. The linoleum is older than Eisenhower presidential campaign based on it's fabrication, but the change from a bathroom to tiny bedroom and the patch job certainly can be dated to his campaign. On top of the tin sheeting were linoleum patches, which you can barely see in the top left of the photo.

This spring I will kick into high gear and start my work on this room. At the same time, I think that I will demo the butler's pantry underneath the room which will aid in running plumbing to the new laundry room, as well as aid in the removal of the old pipes and traps and the patching of the floor. In the photo below you can see on the right what is a chase for the old waste pipe. I've opened that up and I believe the plumber can cut that waste pipe out and use the chase for the new waste lines and water lines. The washer and dryer will sit right here in this corner.

There is one window which sits low to the floor. You'll notice in the top photo of the post that there is an angle from the wall to the ceiling. On the outside of the house, the eaves sit below that angle, causing the window to be placed low in the room. I haven't decided whether to replace windows or reglaze them and have new storms and screens built. For starters, I'll certainly reglaze this window.  From here I can look out into the north yard to the church and watch the deer as they saunter back and forth from their home up on the hill down to the river and back.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mickey's Bedroom

This winter, for the first winter in a couple of years, we are once again sleeping upstairs in our bedrooms, and I'm loving it. Tom and I loaded up on extra jobs last summer with the sole purpose of insulating the attic floor so that when we turned on the heat for the second floor we wouldn't be heating the great outdoors. Somewhere, I have before and after photos of the attic, but who knows where they are. We're still probably heating the great out doors but not nearly as much. All the old, original windows still need to be reglazed and cracks and crevices in the facade need to be caulked. One day the walls will also need to be insulated as many of the rooms do not have the benefit of ambient heat from the adjoining rooms since most of the rooms have three exposures. But I digress.  

I never do one thing at a time. I always have multiple projects in the air at the same time. So while socking away money for the attic insulation, I was busy stripping all the wallpaper off the bedrooms with the intent of cleaning up all the woodwork and floors so that we could feel like we were moving back into renovated rooms. I got all the bedroom wallpaper off, but still have a strip of wallpaper along the hallway ceiling yet to do. It will wait. After the wallpaper was off, I decided to leave the bare plaster walls as is for the time being. Frequently I see layouts in home magazines showing rooms with bare plaster walls and fancy furniture. If those fancy magazines can say bare plaster walls are beautiful, then I can say so, too.


As the summer was whizzing by, it was clear that I was not going to get as much done as I had hoped, so I concentrated on Mickey's room first.  After the wallpaper was gone, I set about sanding down the painted window moldings and baseboards. I wasn't concerned with sanding down to the wood, only creating a smoother surface over which to paint. I did, however, want to strip the paint completely off the door and return it to its original beauty, including the beautiful brass hardware.

The ceiling paint presented a real problem because it was peeling badly. After a lot of scouring around on the internet looking at solutions, I decided the best I could do would be to manually scrap off as much paint as I could. I armed myself with some heavy duty sharp scrapers and took multiple passes at it, each going a different direction, and then I attacked it with my palm sander. In my scouring, I found a product that I could paint the ceiling with that would bind whatever paint was left to the plaster so that there would be no more peeling.  After that was completed, I gave it three coats of ceiling paint. It's not smooth, but it works, and it is an old farmhouse and no one really notices. Someday I'll have the ceiling skim coated, but that's years away.

I bought a couple cans of Rust-o-leum off-white primer and painted the radiator so that I could get in between each of the ribs (?) with a light color. I then painted what I could reach with the paint I was using to paint all the baseboards and window trim.

I asked Mickey what colors he would like to have in his room. Blue and green. Instantly I set out to find a blue and green plaid duvet and matching pillow shams. While I was at it, I wanted to find him some flannel sheets, and I decided to buy each of our beds a down comforter. As it turned out, I opted for the down alternative comforters and Macy's had Martha Stewart's down alternatives on sale, and because I was lucky enough to purchase them online on Veteran's Day, I got an extra 15% off! Yeah, me! I'm not done done with his room - I want to replace his windows, find him either a good desk or a comfy arm chair, and I still want to skim coat and paint over the old plaster walls, but all in all, I'm very proud of how his room turned out. 


Below is a picture of Mickey's room taken when we looked at the house the first time. Comparing it to the photo above, you can see the difference without the wallpaper, our off-white wood work and the tung oiled floor.


The door knob and face plate above is on the door to the closet. This face plate is heavy brass, better quality than what is on his bedroom door. Because there is some tell-tale signs of walls being moved when various additions were made the house, I think that his closet hardware was originally on his bedroom door as the bedroom door hardware is clearly not original, though it is still Victorian.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Up-ended Sleeping

So. When we were still sleeping downstairs in the parlors, Mickey would often migrate from his bed to ours after we had put him to sleep. And then we would disrupt his peaceful sleep to move him from our bed back to his bed so that we could go to bed.  Apparently I took this photo in July of 2012, and I know I've never posted it. Today while browsing through photos to see how far behind I was with regard to posting to my blog, I came across it and simply had to share. We were both startled and amused to walk into the bedroom to find him sleeping in this position.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ninth Birthday, a year and half late . . .

Ok. I'm embarrassed. Here it is, a year and a half after Mickey's 9th birthday and I'm just now posting about it. I've been busy. Really busy. And today, I don't have to be in to work until 11:00, so as I sat in front of the computer with my coffee, I thought I'd take a look at my old blog to see where things were. I was taken back that I started this post a year and half ago but never finished it.  So today, I'm finishing it. Given my poor memory, there won't be much story. I'm basically posting the photos so they won't be lost to all time once our computer crashes and we lose everything, which happens every year and half or so.

Having a birthday in the summer can be difficult. So many people are away on vacation. We used to invite the world for Mickey's birthday celebrations and turn them into grand summer barbecues. This used to be draining for the Tom and me, and the time came when it was clear it was draining for Mickey, too. So each year he pares down his list to the kids he'd like to have around and then we see who is around.  For his ninth birthday, Mickey celebrated with Cooper (red cap), Roman (on the left) and Antonius (on the right).

I take charge of the food and cake and Tom takes charge of the kids and festivities. Tom comes up with all kinds of crazy things for the kids to do. I don't remember how this went, but first there was some sort of sock race.

And then there was some other race of some sort, and though it isn't depicted here, I think this race had to do with the socks, too. Or maybe it was all the same race. See. It's my memory. (Tom will probably see this post and then tell me these photos had nothing to do with a race or Mickey's birthday and these kids aren't really anyone we know.)



Once Tom got all the kids worn out with games, we settled down to eat.  Though no pictures of the meal survived, I believed this year we decided to have a taco bar and let the kids fill their own.  They also probably watched a movie while they ate, but that movie escapes my memory, too. 

And for every birthday, this one included, Mickey has always had a special birthday cake made by yours truly. For his first birthday (his 3rd birthday), I made him a circus themed cake. Every year after, I let Mickey choose what kind of theme he would have. The subsequent themes were the monkey cake, the shark cake, the tiger cake (of which no photos were taken, dang it), then the alligator cake, and then last year he had Tipper cupcakes. This year he wanted a Spiderman cake. I always search the internet for ideas to steal, and after the multi-caked alligator cake, and the black icing and candy parts of the Tipper cupcakes, I was very glad to find this simple solution for a Spiderman cake.

And then after too much excitement, as usual, and a good bath, the sugar coma started to settle in and we could all relax.

Last year (or was it the year before?), our good friend and neighbor, Elise (my bff), took Mickey to have lobster at Greek restaurant in town. He looooooved the lobster - I actually think it was the pool of butter that he loved more - so I thought maybe we could have a new tradition of a family only lobster dinner for Mick's summer birthday. If you watch the lobster tank at Price Chopper, you can get lucky and find lobsters at a good price. I bought three and left them in their bag on the back seat of the car and told Mickey his birthday present was out in the car and he could go get it himself. I was sure he'd start screaming and be too freaked out to pick them up . . .

but he wasn't, but he was also going to not let them get to close to him, safe in a bag or not.



Nothing like a simple summer meal of steamed lobster and corn on the cob.

Happy Birthday, Mick!