Saturday, December 29, 2007

Miles of Tiles

If you follow my blog with some regularity, you know that I usually have a number of projects in progress at any one time.....and another dozen or so in the planning stages. My bathroom is one of the up-and-coming projects.

Other than the upstairs (which was never really finished) the bathroom is the only other room in the house that has been messed with. We can thank The Flipper for that. The bathroom was gutted. Thank heaven removing vintage hex floor tiles is pricey, or I'm sure they'd be long gone too. The original plaster, wall sink, toilet & medicine cabinet all bit the dust under her reign. In her defense, I will state that she did add a shower....and at least when she slapped up that drywall, she removed the window trim and reinstalled it after the drywall was up. For this, I remain grateful.

When the shower was added, the tub surround needed to be made waterproof, so The Flipper tiled it. Again, to her credit she chose basic white tile and somewhat vintage black trim. It's just really, really white. When I moved in, there was a crappy plastic (yes, plastic) base strip where the drywall met the hex floor. I couldn't live with that, so that was immediately replaced with the black ceramic sanitary base you see in the photo.

I detest the drywall & it was not installed well, so plans to tile the lower half of the the rest of the bathroom quickly made it on my "to do" list. It took me many trips to tile stores and big box stores before I was able to track down matching white 4x4 tile. In true Flipper form, the tile was the cheapest white tile sold at Menards. $.09/tile. That said, this is a simple bungalow and the plain tiles fit in fine. It's not the blunt edge, a tinge off white restoration tile, I would have chosen......but it is fine (really. It is. This is me talking myself into it.).

Then things got tricky. In order to match the existing tile spacing around the tub, I need to add 2" (in addition to one white 4x4 tile) from the black base tile at the floor up to the first tile above the tub. No problem, I thought.

I quickly found a .5" wide, vintage green sizzle strip at Menards. The plan was to stagger two strips above and below a row of white tiles....adding 2". I bought a sample of this tile to try out at home. When I went back to buy what I needed, the store did not have that color. I asked if I could special order it. Nope. In fact, the sales person that was "helping" me used the "I have worked here 5 years and we have never carried that color" approach to customer service. Whatever.

I let the whole tile thing slide for a few months. Then this past fall I made a trip over to a local shop that custom makes art tiles. They also custom make replacement tiles to match damaged vintage tiles in restoration projects. I was prepared to plunk down some serious cash for some artsy strip tiles. I rationalized that my bathroom was pretty small and the white tiles were very cheap, so custom accent tiles would be fun and not put me that much over budget. I described what I needed to the gal working in the studio. I told her I was looking for a vintage inspired, creative design to add 2" to the white field tiles - the sky was the limit on design. She kind of shrugged and looked at me. I ended up leaving the studio with samples of a very expensive, skinnier version of what I originally found at Menards. Disappointing.

So, once again I sat on the project. Then right before Christmas I was at Menards again. On a whim I decided to check the tile. I spotted vintage green, 1" strip tiles that had a very subtle Venetian glass shimmer to them. Very simple. They were on sale. I bought them. Problem solved. I'll use a row of white tiles above the black base, a row of green tiles, a row of white, a row of green and this will bring us up the existing row of white tiles above the tub.

Of course, these new tiles will join the wall sink , my salvaged black ceramic fixtures, the new bathroom light , the replated hardware & my salvaged medicine cabinet in waiting for their project to start. I still need to hunt down a pair of vintage tub faucet handles.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Travel Prints

This afternoon I picked up from my framer a print I bought while in Oregon. I dropped the print off before Christmas, and I spent a long time finding the perfect frame. I think it turned out well. I have a second print that I dropped off today to be framed using the same frame.

These travel prints are created by a commercial illustrator named Paul Lanquist. He fashioned them after illustrators' work from the 1920's, 30's & 40's.

The prints remind me of Works Progress Administration (WPA) art of Depression era projects, and I think they fit well in my bungalow. He also has prints of the Timberline Lodge (I visited it, but I vow to stay in the lodge sometime before I die) and the Oregon Coast that I may add to my collection at some point.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

How does it's little cactus brain tell it that today is the day to bloom? Not yesterday, not next week...today.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stating The Obvious

I'm going to sound like an idiot when I say this. I guess it should have been obvious.

Last summer I replaced an ill fitting drip edge on a front door overhang that led into the unfinished portion of my attic with a custom drip edge. I also tore out two old, aluminum triple track storm windows on the front of my house and replaced them with vintage style, wood frame storms. I completed these projects because, more than anything, they were unbearably ugly and I wanted to make them pretty.

However, the weatherproofing effect of these two relatively small changes has been astounding. I'm pretty hip to weatherproofing a house and have had multiple energy audits done......and spent many an hour on weatherproofing projects. That said, the dramatic change this year has taken me completely by surprise.

The wood storms have eliminated the cold spots that used to waft from my front windows and over my sofa into my living room. Even more dramatic is the change to my upper level. The cold air was entering through exterior gaps in the drip edge and invading both my attic and the space between the living room plaster ceiling and the attic floor. Last year the difference in temperature between my lower & upper level was about 10 degrees. I had an oil filled heater up there to use on really cold nights. This year the difference has been 1 degrees. Yes, one measly degree.

I can only imagine how the house will change as I continue to replace the triple track storms. Pretty and useful. Who knew?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Comparing Notes

A few weeks ago I wrote about the chance meeting with a former coworker of mine......who in a bizarre twist of fate knew the previous owner of my house. Well, on Saturday I met my former coworker and her husband for lunch to share notes and once again laugh & shake our heads over the coincidence of it all. In order to offer "proof" that she actually had been in StuccoHouse and knew the previous owner, she brought photos :-)

This PO purchased the house in 1990 and sold it under some financial duress in 2000. It was then owned by a flipper followed by a semi-flipper....and then me in 2002.

After a very fun lunch, we took the grand tour of StuccoHouse. First of all, I have to say it is very strange to see photos of someone else standing in the house you now call home. Unfortunately, the PO passed away at what appears to be a fairly young age (hopefully not from lead poisoning, asbestos or radon)....prior to my purchasing the house.

The first thing I noticed about the photo was the missing crown moulding. I knew it. I knew it. The crown moulding had been removed. When I moved in, it was stained but not finished. It also was a color just a tad darker then the rest of the woodwork. One of my first projects was to even the stain and finish both the crown moulding and the baseboard with shellac. My theory has always been that it was painted and then removed to be stripped. The second photo shows the PO with a friend out in the back yard cutting what I suspect is the crown moulding.

For the record, I've included a photo of the living room now. Note that the same old, ancient mini-blinds remain - for now.

Other tidbits that I learned:

-The textured ceilings were added in the early 1990's (so, asbestos probably is not a concern - yeah!).

-As late as 2000, there was a vintage stove in the kitchen that was lit by a match (my soul died just a little when I learned this had been yanked out by the flipper).

-The bathroom did have a vintage medicine cabinet (also, a victim of the flipper, I believe). They also laughed about the clearance between the tub & the toilet. The bathroom did not have a shower (which explains the semi-flipper's redo of the shower area tile when she probably added a shower).

-The living room & dining room were carpeted and the PO had cats - which may explain my early wood floor discoveries. It also explains the damage to the back door (I'll cover this in a future post).

-The upstairs was originally three small partially finished rooms. The owner before me, finished off the expansion attic and removed the old walls. When I first moved into the house, I had the upstairs floors refinished, but I remember the shadows of the old walls on the floor. My friend remembers a charming, small little window from one of the smaller rooms into the larger area. I wonder if it could have been one of the mystery glass windows I discovered in my attic area. I love little quirky things like that.

-I had to laugh because the PO was humored by the hallway with all of the doors too.

-At one time there was talk of knocking down the wall between the living room & the kitchen. Thankfully, it is a load bearing wall and that plan was dropped.

-Bless his heart, this was the PO that planted the three lilac trees just outside of my living room windows. I enjoy the smell from those trees each Spring and get comments from the neighbors at how nice they look.

I had a very entertaining time learning all of this about StuccoHouse, and I was a little relived to hear that my work on the house seemed to fit in with the plans the PO also had for StuccoHouse. I still can't shake the feeling that somehow the PO, from the great beyond, had a hand in this whole little Ghost Whisperer scenario.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mini-Road Trip

This time of year gets a little crazy for me workwise. But every year for the past 5 or 6 yrs. I've reserved one day for shopping. It's become a much needed ritual mini-road trip. In the morning, I go and pick up my clients' gifts.

Then I head north up to the outlet mall. It's the only kind of shopping that doesn't suck the life out of me this time of year. Every store has it's own door, so you don't need to wade through the madding crowd to get to what you want to buy. I'm not a good shopper.

Then, I continue on the road up to my former college. There they have a small store that sells local crafts. Many of the artists are retired professors, so the quality of their work is pretty good. Every year I buy a piece of pottery from my former pottery teacher. I've got quite a diverse collection by now. This year's purchase is a porcelain piece. I usually also stop in the bookstore & buy myself a sweatshirt.....all the while marveling at how all the cell-talking-students look 12 yrs old. (because we know it's not me getting old)

By accident last year, I discovered the the stores in town are not nearly as crowded as they are in Minneapolis, so I usually finish my shopping up there.

Finally, I eat lunch in my favorite sandwich place (BoDiddly's) and then head home.

Christmas shopping completed....and a treat for myself :-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Trend Spotting

Here's one of the reasons why I like living in an old neighborhood. If you keep your eye's peeled, you can spot little tell-tale signs of history.




Most of the houses (and garages) in my neighborhood were built in the early 1900-20's. Homeowners had to take some ingenious steps to accommodate the big cars that became all the rage in next few decades.



Friday, December 07, 2007

The True Test

Southern readers - This post is optional reading for you.

This is last year's ice dam. By the next day, the icicle you see was about 2 ft long and 3" in diameter.
















And these are the same corners this year after the ambitious aluminum soffit removal/roofing/drip edge/wood repair blitz of Summer 2007. The repairs stopped at least the majority of the hot air from the attic from escaping and heating the underside & edge of the roof beneath the snow.
















Because of the funky design of the overhang (the attic runs into the overhang), I doubt I will ever able to completely prevent a small ice dam from forming on the left corner. But, I think the improvement is noticeable and should cause me a lot less stress.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hey, It's Me

Being a "regular" at your local stores has benefits.

When I first moved into my house, I painted the living room using Devine paint's color Sundown. The paint is oh-so-cool. Thick like pudding, smells like yogurt and has an uber high pigment density that makes the colors do very cool things in different lights. If you haven't tried this paint, you must. I am a big fan. Just don't paint when you are hungry.

Over the years, I've been completing other projects in that room and now there are some spots that need a small touch-up.

So a couple of months ago I stopped in at Hirshfields, a local paint store. Depending on the brand of paint I'm buying, I always go to either Abbott Paints or Hirshfields - and I've been painting a lot and almost always ask for their advice, so both places recognize my face. Anyway, my mission was to buy one of the sample packets of Sundown to do my touch-ups.

When I went to the Devine display, I discovered that Sundown had been discontinued. Not a big deal with most paints, but Devine doesn't not mix non-Devine colors. I panicked slightly. The sales guy took me under wing and told me he'd look through the formulas to see if perhaps they had just changed the name. Whew, my new color name was Organza. Unfortunately, they were out of sample packets. The paint is on the expensive side and I was in no huge rush to touch up the paint, so I decided to hold out for the sample size.

I stopped in again the next week. And the next. And one more time. On my last visit, I was chatting with the sales guy about when he thought the next shipment might arrive and he suddenly excused himself saying something cryptic "...let me just check on something." A few minutes later he reappeared from the back room with a quart of Organza paint. For me. Without charge :-) They knew me. They knew I had been in a few times. They thought I had been through enough and wanted a happy customer.

Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Red or Green?

This is the sum total of Christmas decorating that will be done at StuccoHouse this year. I plan to put one bulb up on my front porch light. For the life of me I can't imagine creating yet another mess that I will need to clean up again in a few weeks.

If I put up the light and it doesn't seem enough, I may also set up my Frankoma Nativity set. It's one of those sets where you purchase a few pieces every year. Unfortunately, the company was sold last year and they stopped production - right before the wiseman were to be issued. For a while it looked like I had sunk my money into a set that would never be complete. I just didn't have the heart to put up the set and watch baby Jesus laying there waiting for the Kings bearing gifts when I knew they were not going to show up. But, just last week I checked their website and they are now selling the remaining wisemen. When I called to place my order she was missing one of the wisemen, but she agreed to send me the rest. I guess two Kings are better than none.

I still haven't decided if I should use the red or the green bulb.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Down & Out

I've been down and out with the flu. Although I did manage to haul my fevered self outside to shovel the 4" of snow we received this weekend off my sidwalk and am gearing myself up to also shovel the 4-5" of anticpated snow this afternoon. Oh, the joys of winter in Minnesota!

One happy note in all of this is the arrival of the v- channeled spring bronze weatherproofing strips I ordered from Kilian Hardware (it's taped to a board).

I haven't posted about it yet, but over the past couple of years I have been (very) slowly restoring each of my 80+ yr old windows. I've been terribly unimpressed with the spring bronze available in the stores, so I decided to go with the v-channel. Now that I've had a chance to inspect it up close, I think I made the right decision. It is very sturdy. (And am I the only one to note that the postal packaging Kilian used would be the very kind that another compay could easily use to ship, say, backband molding to a desperate customer?)

I promise to do a full account of the windows one of these days. I'm doing a full restoration (i.e. stripping each sash and trim down to bare wood, reinstalling the old glass, reputtying, repainting, replacing rope, weatherproofing, and reinstalling). I'm kind of a perfectionist, so this job is taking some time.

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