Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Little Shady

With the exception of one bedroom, every window in my house at one time had a pull shade. I can tell this because the old pull shade hardware is still there - albeit, covered in layers of paint.

When I was trying to decide what to use on two of my upstairs windows, I finally came to the conclusion that it would be kind of cool to use vintage style roller shades.

Now when I was growing up, you were able to find a wide variety of roller shades in just about any store. They came in a palette of colors and different styles. I'm not sure exectly when roller shades fell out of favor, but I was shocked when I started looking for shades and couldn't find them. I thought it was going to be a quick trip to the local store. I was mistaken.

I did find a few manufacturers that sold them online, but the "new" version of rollershades operate by a cord on the side of the shade that you use to lower & raise the shade. If I bought this style, I wasn't going to be able to use my original hardware.

Someone finally mentioned to me that they thought they had seen roller shades for sale at JC Penney. I'm not a big Penneys shopper, so it took me a while to drag myself across town to see what they had. I was pretty happy when I eyed a full display of roller shades.

The saleswoman started to show me my options. I had thought that I would be able to spend about $40, per window. Of course, the salesperson shows you the "basic" shade.....and then starts showing you the upgrades. And I am a sucker for the upgrades.

Turns out my $40 budget did not cover the semi-darkening, fabric, scalloped edge, trimmed, reverse roll....shade of my dreams. Let's just say we spent a little bit more than anticipated on the shades (including a 40% sale and an additional 10% discount). Sometimes a girl just needs to go over her budget.

It took my custom shades a couple of weeks to arrive. The salesperson, bless her heart, even called the manufacturer to make sure I would be able to use my vintage hardware with the new shades.

I have to say, in the end I think the pull down shades were just the right thing for those windows.

Monday, March 24, 2008

House Funk

I'm in a bit of a house funk. After being cooped up inside for most of the winter, I am sick to death of everything inside. No indoor projects hold any interest for me lately. Only disdain.

We received 4" more inches of "heart attack" snow over the past few days, leaving the ground soaking wet and piles of heavy snow (bless the heart of my kind, anonymous neighbor that got up at the crack of dawn on Sat. and snowplowed the sidewalk for the entire block. You have earned your place in the great beyond. I did not have it in me to even look at my shovel).

It was particularly cruel last week when we reached temps of 50 degrees. I'm not sure why we Minnesotans fall for it every year, but we thought for sure Spring had arrived.

All I can do at this point is contemplate my list of outdoor Spring projects. This is a mixed bag. I'm excited to work on some Spring projects, but dreading others because of cost (tree trimming) or sheer magnitude (scraping and painting the rest of my exterior wood trim).

Yesterday, I asked my Dad if he would help me make some repairs to the sidewalk/foundation/door threshold on the side of my house when the snow finally melts. I have some funky stuff happening on that side of my house that I will write about in depth when we start working on it. So, that's going to be one of the first things I tackle.

I also need to strip my salvaged medicine cabinet as soon as possible. All future work in my bathroom hinges on this one task.

And, yes, I know. I need to finish my little series on window restoration - by writing about how I reinstall the windows. It's coming. Really.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Haven't They Heard?

My annual Notice of Valuation arrived the other day assessing the estimated market value of my house for 2009 tax purposes. I took a quick glance at it and had a royal fit when I saw the valuations. A 20% increase in the assessed market value of my house?!

Because I am in StuccoHouse for the long haul and don't touch the equity, the market valuation only means one thing to me.........taxes payable.

Haven't they heard that we are in a recession (or on the verge, depending on who you talk to)?! Don't they know about the plight of the housing market?! Haven't they seen the city's foreclosures every night on the news?! How did they have the nerve to increase the value of my house by that much?! More taxes?! Where was the justice?! Where was the reason?!

Then I took a closer look and realized that I had the years switched. It was actually a 20% decrease in assessed market value. Less taxes.

Nevermind :-)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Eminent Domain

My promise to you during the upcoming political election frenzy is that StuccoHouse will remain 100% apolitical. No politics. None. Ever.

100% house, 100% of the time.

That said, for those homeowners that are now serving as delegates in their state or the national conventions, now would be a good time to make sure your party's platform reflects your views on eminent domain. If it's not there, ask how & when you can submit a resolution.

It's difficult to complain when a beautiful old house or historic building is torn down for new condos or shopping center (and a bigger tax base) when we don't clearly inform our elected officials how we expect them to act on our behalf. Of course, if you are a condo builder or shopping center owner with your eye on a prime city lot filled with houses.....you will need to let them know your views :-)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Home and Garden Show

This past weekend I talked a friend into going with me to the Home and Garden Show. The last time I went to the show was a few years ago, so I was ready to see what was new and trendy in all things house.

The thing about this show is that 95% of it is geared towards people building big, new houses in the suburbs. Not me. So, when you talk to most of the contractors, you need to translate most of what they say into "old house" lingo yourself and just tune out the vinyl siding/window pitches.

We started on one end of the show and walked up and down the aisles. The first section was the "Green Scene." I've probably written it before in my blog even though I know it's not p.c. I'm weary of the whole "green" thing. In my mind its a lot of hype to sell even more products. I gag a little every time I hear it.

We stopped to see the bamboo wood flooring in one booth and the sales guy came over to chat. It is a nice sustainable product. Here are some of the things that ran through my head: They warranty it for 50 yrs (my oak floor is 80+ yrs and will last another 100). It can't be refinished because it is really a thin layer of bamboo over a substrate. In the effort to be "green" you hear about people that yank out their existing old wood floors to put in bamboo (sigh). You also hear about people using it in new construction in their monster sized house on a few acres of lawn - green? I dunno.

I'll say it once and then move on. These home shows need to have more vendors that represent companies that salvage old growth wood and turn it into flooring/furniture.....that demonstrate how to use high quality vintage plumbing fixtures.....that show vintage lighting......that tell people about the advantages of materials like stucco over vinyl.....etc.

I was able to chat with a geothermal heating system contractor, the Icynene insulation guy, and some concrete stamping companies. I think these products are interesting and like to understand how they work and what's available. My friend was interested in gutter toppers, garage doors, and lawn services.

This year's booths of note:

Prairie Woodworking. They still are on my short list to build a window seat in my upstairs sunroom. This company's home is in the heart of Twin Cities bungalow country.

A few years ago I bid on a log bench at a silent auction fundraiser. The bench was made by Ryan's Rustic Railings. I had to stop by their booth and see his new stuff. Log cabins are big in our family. Ryan's website has some very cool photos of his work, primarily on log staircase railings.

If you have read my blog for a while, you know my stucco was painted with a bizarre Portland cement/paint combo. One day it needs to be fixed. So, I stopped by Donnelly Stucco to briefly chat. The woman there knew exactly what I was talking about and told me they had solved this problem for others. I really do need to have them come out and give me a bid.......

My bathtub finish is on it's last leg. There is even a tiny spot of rust showing through in one spot. Ugh. I did not have good luck with a tub refinish I did at my last house. I am dreading refinishing my current tub. I stopped by the Surface Renew booth and talked to the company owner. They use a two part poly finish developed by NASA on their tubs. I've read up on this product and it seems to be the best thing going for tubs right now. This company warrantys the tub for 5 yrs, has been in business for 12 yrs and they belong to the BBB. I think I'll probably be chatting with them later this coming summer. I'm still nervous.

My kitchen has been an ongoing saga. *If* I find the vintage 40" gas stove of my dreams......I'll need to have a custom cabinet built to relace an original that was pulled out of that corner. The majority of my kitchen cabinets are 1924 vintage birch. I want a replacment cabinet that will match the vintage woodwork exactly. I ran across the Meyer Woodworking booth and in talking to them it sounded like something they could accomplish.

One of my last stops was at the Better Business Bureau booth. They put out a publication called the Better Pages that lists local companies that belong to the BBB and promise to adhere to their standards. When I first moved into StuccoHouse, I joined Angie's List with disappointing luck. My new system is to use names out of the BBB book and check them online for complaints. So far (knock on wood) this has worked out well.

There you have it.

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