Archive for category Interior Design

Let there be Light

I had purchased these wall sconces a while back at my favorite nearby architectural salvage shop in Ft. Wayne; sconces but no globes. Just down the street from the salvage business is the Habitat For Humanity ReStore, where the same day I found 2 glass globes that fit them perfect. Successful scavenging day!

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They were pretty dirty, years of hairspray and dust I imagine. I was cautious to try any chemical cleaners on them, so instead I used 0000 steel wool, and lightly polished them to a mirror finish. The left is dirty, on the right is freshly polished.

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And here it is hanging on the wall to the left of the medicine cabinet opening (no, I haven’t started building the medicine cabinet. I have started designing it though!). The sconces were just about 3/4 inch narrower than the 4″ round fixture boxes I installed in the walls, which meant I had to fill the space on either side. Although you can buy ready-made fixture box covers that would have worked for a round sconce, these are ellipse and the circular covers wouldn’t look right. So I made my own “medallions” by tracing the sconce onto a 1/4″ thick scrap board, and cut the outline with a handheld jigsaw 1/2″ outside of my pencil tracing. Some rigorous sanding to round over the top edges, and then 2 coats of bright white paint. Of course the wires and wire nuts had to pass through, so I cut a hole in the center of each one before painting. But it was still a trick with only 2 hands to wire the short wires together and tighten the sconce to the wall making sure the white medallion was centered all around.

But the real work this past month was going from this:

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To this:IMG_3422B

That’s not just woodwork stripped of paint, but 2 windows fully restored, ropes replaced, new lock-pulls, and weatherstripping installed. And if they look good, that’s nothing compared to how¬†smoothly they operate and how tightly they close. I’m working on window 3 (of 10!) and documenting each step for a future post. It takes a little longer than tearing out and replacing, but the results are worth the extra effort!

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The Scraping Never Ends

This post is written post-completion, kind of playing catch-up with the blog so it matches my progress on the house. For once the house work is actually ahead of journaling.

The laundry room, though the smallest room in the house, probably had the worst plaster of any room in the house. Lots of large cracks, peeling paint on every wall and the ceiling, and of course the woodwork had layer after layer of paint on it.

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I immediately took down the cabinet on the right, and not too long after that I ripped up the linoleum and 1/2″ plywood it was glued to. There wasn’t too much glue holding the plywood down, and underneath there was the original fir floors, although filthy and lots of stain. There is evidence of quite a lot of water leaking, from the flooring to the baseboards, but luckily they aren’t rotten, just stained.

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I’ve tried heat gun and every chemical in the hardware store, but a sharp scraper seems to be the best tool for removing paint from the woodwork. Note the fan blowing dust outside, and the plastic taped around the doorway to the kitchen to keep any paint dust out of the living areas of the rest of the house.P1030954 BAs the paint came off the woodwork, I also scraped all loose paint off of the walls – which was a lot. The only thing missing is a photo of the paint chips on the floor, about an inch thick.P1030964 BAnd all the cracks. The plaster itself isn’t loose or crumbling, just lots of deep cracks. I think the roof must have been leaking down this wall where the windows are.P1030971 BThen it was time to throw more mud – drywall mud. I’m not the cleanest with it, I can get it semi-smooth on the walls, but I seem to drip quite a lot on the floors. I didn’t even bother to clean it up right away.

P1030979 BAlthough they didn’t all need it, I went ahead and applied drywall tape and joint compound to all of the corners throughout the room – walls and ceiling.P1030966 BI’m not perfect at mudding walls, but this was good practice with all the corners. Where it wasn’t perfect, a little bit of sanding when dry works really good. I found that very fine sandpaper on a square oscillating sander works good, but I have to keep it moving quick so not to sand off too much.P1030987 BThe ceiling was terrible. It looked like it had a skim-coat at some point in the past, and it took so many layers of mudding, sanding, mudding, and sanding. In the end, I wasn’t going for perfect. Just semi-smooth. I’ve already decided that in an old house, nothing should be “perfect,” or it won’t be an old house anymore. Character, I call it.P1030993 BAfter a long night of sanding… selfies in the reflection of the laundry room window:P1030998 BAfter a layer of primer and 2 coats of paint, voila! Not a bad ceiling after all!

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I stained the woodwork first before painting the walls. It is impossible, in my opinion, to stain woodwork and not get it on the walls. Two generous coats of stain, and then I use a trim brush to prime over the sloppy stain so that it doesn’t seep through the finish paint.P1040002 B

The woodwork started to look really good, but it just points out how terrible the window sashes still look. But those will be addressed soon!P1040010 B

Then it was time to paint. I wasn’t very picky choosing a paint color for the laundry room. It’s a small room, and there really isn’t very much style going on in there. My washer & dryer are white, the woodwork is mahogany, and I eventually plan to hang painted cabinets above the machines. But since the room opens into the kitchen, I want the two rooms to eventually feel seamless. So I picked a nice putty beige that will look good with the woodwork & the colors I already have picked for the future kitchen cabinets. The color is Loggia by Sherwin Williams (SW 7506). It’s a good neutral – not too yellow, not too pink – and the name, Loggia, brings back fond memories of my semester in Italy.P1040015 B

Two coats of paint went pretty fast with the now-smooth walls. Just a few areas needed touched up because I was still building up the repairs with layers of drywall mud.P1040016 B

(This is where I explain, yes, the cabinet in the wall which is supposed to be a broom closet is functioning now as a handsaw cabinet. Some people have gun cabinets. I for some reason have a saw cabinet.)

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I had removed the baseboards earlier before tackling the plaster repair, so I stained & poly’d them while off the walls – much easier this way. So all I had to do was nail them in place – and they fit really tightly to the walls. I didn’t feel like fixing the former outlet opening in the board above, because I knew it would be hidden by the washer. But I did purchase a brown outlet cover and screwed it overtop. A quick fix for an area that will only ever be seen during the short time it takes to switch out a washer or dryer if when appliances are ever upgraded.P1040034 B

The woodwork isn’t perfect, it still has some dings and scratches. But I didn’t feel the need to sand everything out. Once again, character.P1040057 BThen some finishing details. Like snapping on the trim piece for the washer connection box:

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And hiding the water heater shut-off access into the wall with this box and removable lid, and snapping the round covers over the water heater inlet and outlet pipes.P1040031 B

In all, I am thrilled with how far this room has come. I still need to refinish the door for the little wall cabinet on the left, but it should be a fast Saturday project. P1040346 B

And I am really happy with how clean the washer hook-up turned out. The inlet pipes and drain are all contained in the wall, just like in a new home.P1040350 B

For a light in the laundry room, I planned on just one fixture in the center of the ceiling. I really liked the shape and style of this Jar Pendant from West Elm, but I think I had less than their asking price in my total materials for the entire laundry room rehab. And I really didn’t want a pendant type fixture.

West Elm Jar Pendant

Over the winter I hit a couple salvage stores in Fort Wayne and found enough pieces to make something similar in a ceiling mount light. I found the metal base at one salvage store, and the glass globe at another. P1040352 B

A little spray paint for the base, new screws to hold the globe, and tada! Similar, but less than $15 total.

What’s next? Well, I’m gonna enlist my mother’s sewing skills to create some window coverings. I don’t really need privacy in this room, but introducing some fabric will soften the edges around the woodwork and introduce texture into an otherwise all-wall room. Cotton drop cloth, leather straps, and metal grommets – something like this:laundry curtain inspiration

But I’m most excited to start dealing with my beautiful but inefficient original windows – glazing putty, bronze weatherstrip, and new sash rope – here we go!

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Getting a Handle on Things – part 2

So the bathroom door is installed, varnished, and looks beautiful. But it was missing a door handle. No worries, my cat doesn’t seem phased that I don’t shut the bathroom door when showering or brushing my teeth. But having friends over occasionally and having them panic when they hastily shut the door closed was getting old. (Knowing how to open a handle-less door with a flat-head screwdriver should still be taught as part of 2nd grade curriculum.) But what does the perfect bathroom door handle look like for my house?

Well, the only existing original door has a handle that looks like this:

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There is a great little architectural salvage business in downtown Fort Wayne (Indiana) just to the west of us, and it is room after room, after patio, after whole ‘nother building full of salvaged antique house parts. In fact, an entire small room is devoted to hardware – door handles, hinges, mechanism, and escutcheon plates. But nothing that matched this one. Not even close. And although they had glass doorknobs, they didn’t have any exact matches of these either – mine is slightly smaller and with more facets around the edges than any I found there.

So after a little while (2 hours) staring & sorting through the hundreds of escutcheon plates (also known as ‘door knob plates’), I decided upon a certain style because they had 5 matching sets exactly the same, and in pretty decent shape. Dirty and scratched, but not bent out of shape like some of the others. By buying them all at once, I now have enough for all the future doors in my house, including modifying them to make them fit the inside of the front & rear entrance doors.

While traveling for a work event earlier this spring, I found a lonely little glass doorknob in a small antique shop in Downtown Medina, Ohio (an incredible downtown, by the way – seriously, go there sometime!). I was pretty certain it was just like mine while in the store, and the price was safe enough to take it home. Sure enough, exact match!

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So put the two together and now I have got to be the proudest bathroom doorknob owner on my block.

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I like that the plates are dark to look like hammered metal, but still rather rectilinear which fall right within the design mindset of the American Craftsman time period. Round or curvy shapes are found sparingly in Craftsman homes. Instead you find lots of square motifs – from the built ins, divided light windows, and even small trim details and original wallpaper styles of the time. It was hip to be square.

Earlier (aka, before I realized my actual home-improvement budget) I was drooling over these handmade reproduction door handles – I liked the 4 square detail in the corners.

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But I really like mine a lot better. Mine don’t look as “rugged.” I sought them out and got to enjoy the thrill of discovery when finding them. And as I strive to be, these again are authentic to the time period (and most importantly, a hell of a lot cheaper).

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I still don’t necessarily shut the bathroom door during every visit (I don’t want my cat to get lonely & feel the need to claw at the door – that will get him kicked out of the humblebungalow faster than you can spell ‘eviction’) – but when friends visit they sure enjoy the luxury of a door handle. It’s the little things.

The only drawback is this plate doesn’t allow for a turn-knob lock. And it is a bathroom, after all. I imaging a future homeowner might want a locking bathroom door. So I’m thinking of making a skeleton key to fit the mortise lock. In fact, there is a great online tutorial from This Old House showing just how to do that. Then the key could hang on a fancy hook beside the door. A future project, perhaps. You know, just in case someone really wants to lock themselves in.

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