March 17, 2010

Rooms with a view

Sometimes even I think we are crazy. Well.... uh... I guess you should take Phillip out of that equation and just say that I am crazy. The hinges arrived and oooh were they purty, that is if you like white marble statues, blue carpeting, and gold curtain rods. If you need the reference for that list of  items please see Southpark episode "D-Yikes" season 11, episode 1106, hee, hee, hee, one of my all time favorites! So there I was faced with 69 vibrantly glowing, greeny brass, super shiny, grab you by the throat, shake ya up and throw ya down, brass hinges. I put on my sunglasses and accessed the problem.
The first issue... a thick coating of spray lacquer, ouch, and all that brand new brass. So out came the chemicals, our favorite products that we have to keep in a dark, hidden place away from prying Prius driving, vegan eyes. Not a single thing green about them, but if you want to get the job done there is nothing better. I was going to title this post "Get out your furs for stripping" but then I would have Vegans, Prius drivers, and PETA members out to get me.   :-)

The hinge on the left is shiny and new, the one on the right has been stripped of lacquer, scrubbed with detergent, soaked in Selenious and Phosphoric acid until black, lightly scrubbed again with a scouring sponge and detergent until the black gives way to a darkened multitoned brass with slight copper overtones, buffed dry, and finally lightly rubbed with super fine steel wool to add a slight sheen to the finished piece. Nothin to it. quick as pie and leaves your hands as beautifully antiqued as the hinge.

After hours of scrubbing and adding a new patina, the new look is very acceptable next to the 130 year old door hardware. We could have come even closer but that requires hot processes or fuming, and even I have my limits.

The antique door hardware that is waiting to be installed and that which the hinges need to have some sort of color relationship with.


Passing by 227 North Street one will notice a strange occurrence that has been taking place. Windows!
The reconstructed back of the house is now sporting beautiful double hung windows, with glass and everything. It is an amazing site and the house is beginning to look like a house. There is still many steps ahead to complete the windows, more sanding, priming, and painting, installation of pulleys, ropes, and weights, inside trim, and outside trim, and a serious cleaning, but at least they are in and getting us one step closer to weather safe.

March 04, 2010

Somtimes a sad story must be told to light the way

As we move forward making the right decisions can be difficult. Difficult and expensive! No one told us to "beware the little things". A quote of three thousand dollars for door hinges made me have a sit down. And these are just reproduction, pseudo period hinges off a production line. Antique hinges are out of the question as it is virtually impossible to find enough of the same hinge to do the entire house. Sixty nine hinges, custom made to match the door hardware at one hundred and fifty dollars a hinge... OMG put me out of my misery now! I can think of better ways to use ten grand than swingin a door on it.
The door hardware, outside of hinges, is antique. We have found a great company on the East coast that is collecting period hardware for us, that does not cost and arm and a leg.... a leg perhaps, but not both. The hardware is very pretty, a small bit later than the house, 1880 instead of 1870, but its beautiful and give or take ten years won't be noticed... I hope.

Beautiful, yes, but one drawback. Phillip will be wandering around the house with a huge ring of skeleton keys attached to his belt, like an old prison matron with a deep voice and a "don't %*?# with me fellas" attitude, locking the doors as he moves down the hall after dark. So guests beware of locked doors whose keys go missing in the middle of the night, or a subtle click at your door as you are nodding off to sleep. If we have to start bricking up doorways to cover the aftermath, you know we're in trouble.

And now a sad story. One I have hesitated to discuss. A few months ago during one of my internet excursions into the realm of research, this particular search was on gas lighting to be specific, I came across a gentleman and his wife who were losing their circa 1870 home to the bank. This in it's self is a sad story, but they were feeling a sense of relief at their decision and were ready to move on. They were selling off architectural pieces of their house before they left it. This too is a sad story and it made me feel bad for the home and it's losses, but we were not going to be able to talk them out of stripping it and we are in need. We purchased four gas ceiling fixtures from them, that had hung in the same home for one hundred and forty years. Although they needed work to return them to their original state they were an affordable option, and would get some true period lighting into our house that has none. 

A matched pair of this fixture above for the living room. The shades, sockets, bobeche (the brass bits cupping the shades), and the finish are all incorrect, but workable.
This fixture, although needing the same things as the others, has great structure and will hang in the Library
And lastly this small fixture, in the same condition, to hang in the center hall.

Remember up above when I said "they were an affordable option"? The light fixtures were paid for and picked up, in Michigan, by a dear friend who in turn took them to a frame and packing company for packaging and shipping. A packing company that packs art for worldwide shipping. You know those moments in life where you just put too much trust in others that you do not know? Well this was one of them that will cost a handsome ransom to rectify. Oh, if we could take it back. Oh, if we were not so trusting. Oh, if we could go back in time. Lines of communication broke down. I thought I was very clear about packaging the fixtures in new containers for secure protection. Protect and support the metal, the gas valves, all the small pieces, wrap, cover, enclose. I thought I was clear, specific and concise... I thought

After a long wait the fixtures finally arrived in Healdsburg. One look at the four old, beaten and abused boxes and we knew we were about to see the worst that long haul shipping can provide. The opening of the first box gave way to broken, bent and destroyed metal. One hundred and forty years these light fixtures had hung in the same home, and in a matter of days poor packaging had obliterated them.
I have only photographed one of them. I could not bring myself to photograph the others. All four fixtures have broken arms and bent gas valves. Due to misunderstanding there was not any insurance and even if there were UPS would have taken one look at the packaging and denied the claim. I wouldn't blame them. All four need major restoration. By the time we pay for the restoration on top of what we have already paid, which wasn't a drop in the bucket, we could have gone for the really expensive pieces that I drool over. The funny tag to the whole story is that a week ago we received a bill in the mail from the frame and packing company. A bill for packing services.... HA!

The light at the end of the tunnel comes by means of a gentleman in Grass Valley California by the name of Paul Ivazes. Paul's Company, Quality Lighting, specializes in gas light fixtures and he has had the graciousness not to yell at me for what happened and will restore the fixtures to their original appearance. He has even gone so far as to provide us with pictures from a catalog for Mitchell Vance and Co in New York City, the Company that made our ruined fixtures in the 1870's, showing what the light fixtures looked like when they were new,  and what they will look like again. Paul is a font of information and really fascinating to speak to, he loves gas lighting, he loves his work, and it shows.

The two fixtures in the center are two of ours. The one center right is the matched pair for the living room. The one center left is the fixture for the center hall, it has been somewhat changed over the years.

The fixture in the lower left is the fixture for the Library. It will be really exciting, someday in the future, when they all hang proudly in our house looking like their former selves.

March 03, 2010

One year and a Night visitor

Its true folks. We have been living in Healdsburg for year... My how time flys... and it's still raining.
I don't think the rain will ever stop. I am thinking that we should simply build a large boat around the house and float it away to sea. We spend our weekends working in the pouring rain as our fellow Healdsburger's (hee, hee, Healdsburger's) rush about to find tasty snacks, and rental movies so they can snuggle in by the fire as the storm rages on. Jealous you may ask? Damn right we are. You made your own bed, you say? yes we did sign up for this sentence, but it does not make it any easier. I want to snuggle in, drink toddies (what ever they are) and watch bad movies by the fire.  -Sigh-

We are still in mechanicals hell. The wiring goes on and on and on. Phillip is on the second floor and has done some of the third floor as well. By the end of this month, come hell or high water, we will be ready for our first big inspection. We can't even begin to think of closing in walls until the mechanicals are approved and signed off. We must finish the wiring, add smoke detector lines, add phone and cable lines, and add gas pipes. Then we get the pleasure of sealing up the sewer line at the street, and filling the entire system with water by putting a hose in the highest vent pipe on the roof. Then quickly run around and check for leaks. We need to do this once without the inspector, so we can make sure we are water tight, and then do it again with the city inspector present. I hope the pipes can hold the pressure of that much water.

I was going through pictures looking for interesting things to post, and I came across this picture...

How quickly we have forgotten the decrepit and sad state the house was in when we bought it. We get lost in the slowness of what we are doing, anxious, depressed, and frusterated, but a quick look back brings things back onto focus.


A few "visual" and "moving forward" things have been taking place inside the falling down wreck we call home. A beautiful set of pocket doors have been set in place between the Library and the Study.

The set of doors came out of a house in San Francisco built at the same time as ours. After removing the original wall between the two rooms (it had to come out as it was only 2 x 3 construction and would not accommodate the new doors) we then constructed a new, much thicker wall and created pockets to the left and right for the doors to slide into. We have had a terrible time locating a floor track for them, but as soon as we do, we can add the top guide and the doors will be ready to slide.
The floor in the center hall has been preped for tile. No easy task! the old floor was taken up and the floor joists were shaved and leveled. New floor joists were then sistered to the old for added strength and stability. The old front door sill was removed, and finally plywood was laid down in preparation for cement board and tile. The toughest part was the staircase. Was it possible to cut the old floor away from the staircase without it collapsing into the abyss below? 

Brent (our part time carpenter) carefully cut away the old floor upon which the staircase had been built. Everyone crossed their fingers that it would hold.

Phillip was underneath and held the whole staircase up for hours while we built around it to give it a new support structure.

Well, maybe not. Perhaps he was faking the whole thing for the camera. Perhaps the stairs were never really in danger of collapsing into the earth from the get go. But it was a cute picture and he felt so manly holding them up.

Our wood floors are finished at the Mill and await our "go ahead" for shipment.  We are looking forward to bathroom fixtures, tile, and creating showers. I have been doing a lot of research on the new high tech methods of creating completely water proof spaces that never leak, mold, or mildew. The windows for the back of the house are primed, glazed, and ready to be installed, and Brent and I will tackle them this weekend.

The side note for today. In my last post I wrote of people that we do not know, who just walk into the house to have a look around. Well, last Saturday we were not able to put our front door back into place so we had to cover the opening with stapled down, black plastic. When we arrived on Sunday it was very apparent that someone or something had been in the house the night before. The plastic at the door was completely loose, there was a cigarette that had been put out on the floor at the top of the stairs, and a few small things had gone missing. Seems like we now have crossed the line. On top of everything else there was no floor inside the front door leaving a six foot drop into the cellar. Whom ever was in the house managed to walk the floor joists to the stairs. I would have rather shown up on Sunday to find the intruder moaning on the dirt floor of the basement after having fallen through the open floor, then at least we would have known who it was and find out why they had been in our home. I am one hundred percent positive that I would not have accidentally kicked them in the head a few times as I helped them out of the dirt, no really, I would not do such a thing... I promise! On the other hand, with the way things are today, who ever it was probably would have sued us for damages as we did not have a floor inside our front door and they fell into the basement. Ironic...