June 29, 2010

What goes around sometimes comes back better

Mornin everyone. I have been putting my blog out to the world to attract readers as I spend way to much time writing each post, and I would like to share them with a wider audience. So I would like to welcome the new readers and hope that you will find the time to go to the beginning of our blog so that you can ride this crazy roller coaster with us from the starting gate, and I would urge everyone to become a follower.

I suppose that sometimes really horrible things happen for a reason. At the time it is hard to imagine that this is possible... but I am now a firm believer. In my post on March fourth, "Sometimes a sad story must be told" I told the horrific story, well horrific for the DIY home restorers with limited means, of the 140-150 year old light fixtures we purchased from a home in Michigan. The fixtures were originally gas, and had been visually messed around with over the years, bad wiring for electricity, gold spray paint, incorrect glass globes, the usual things that happen as years march on and folks "update" the fittings of their homes, but nothing as bad as the cross country trip they made via UPS. For all the details read the other posting, but lets suffice it to say that the person in charge of packing them should get out of the packing business! The fixtures arrived in Healdsburg shattered into pieces.

One fixture arrived a day before the other three and we actually cried when the box was opened to reveal its shattered contents. But we pulled ourselves together and hoped for the best with the other three. The very next day we went through the tortures again as each of the remaining three boxes were opened to broken arms and cracked metal. I felt so responsible, I had let us both down by not making one hundred percent sure that everyone was on the same page with the seriousness of the value of the lighting and the need for ultimate care and packaging. I am sure that the first thing everyone thinks is "insurance"... There wasn't any. The packager had failed to fill in the appropriate information leaving a basic $100 per box coverage, and the fixtures cost ten times that for each one. Besides, if a UPS representative took a look at the packaging they would have fallen over laughing at us, one of the boxes was an old beat up shop-vac box.

I am not one to beaten while I am down, and I dried the tears and got back on the horse! Through a recommendation I was led to "Artisticlicense.org", a San Francisco based group of artists specializing in the arts of home restoration.  There we found Paul Ivazes of "Quality Lighting". I phoned Paul, and first begged him not to yell at me! Paul is an amazing artist who managed to take broken piles of pot metal, pipes, and brass fittings, and not only put them back together, he put them back as they were when they walked out of the Mitchel Vance NYC showroom in the late 1860's. Carefully every piece was disassembled into its small parts and stripped bare of its gold paint, and delicately welded and sculpted back into shape.

Each arm was split into its two halves prior to reworking. Note the brass keys and gas lines.

Months have passed and all we saw were the photographs above. Paul told us to trust him and he would make them beautiful. He was not kidding. A couple of days ago he pulled up to the house at nine in the morning... Nine in the morning?, he lives three plus hours away... crazy! In the back of his truck was a pallet. strapped to the pallet were four Renaissance Revival gas ceiling fixtures that could not be ours, and yet they were.

That is Paul standing proudly behind his work
Its still somewhat hard to believe they are the same fixtures. The colors of the Patinas on each one is the original coloration when they were new, and we love them! I promise to post more pictures as soon as I can figure out how to hold them in the air and take some. All they need now is the glass globes and some rooms with walls and ceilings in them to hang from.... but that is another story!

The caveat to the story is that if the fixtures had not been ruined in shipping we never would have had them restored to their former glory. We would have come up with our own way of removing the gold paint and applying some sort of a finish that would look, hmmm, I guess rather shabby chic, and we all know how I feel about shabby chic... get me to the vomitorium quick!!!


Now our lighting sights move onto other rooms. The dining room... although in the time period of the house a dining room fixture would have been played down and very simple, we are looking at using a modern train of thought and putting in a fixture that is glass and sparkling, and perhaps a little over the top. Below is the one we are looking at... what do you think?

June 22, 2010

A Kodak Moment

The Kodak moment took place at five thirty pm, yesterday the twenty first of June. And with the hopes that the insurance underwriter had gotton some the night before, or even better, that morning, along with a lovely breakfast sitting in the sun shine with birds singing in the trees, and a fresh cuppa joe, we will be judged worthy of receiving the gift of acceptance into the world of homeowners insurance.

Although still a bit shabby, at least we look somewhat put together.

Brent worked for hours on Monday sanding the fill on the house skirt and applying 3 coats of oil based primer. A lot of folks ask about Brent and wonder who he is and where we found him. We found him in a ditch along side the road and we drug him home and make him work. Brent has been with us from day one and he is about the hardest worker you could ask for. I think what makes him special is that he actually cares about what we are doing and treats the house as if it were his own, except for that upside down window in the master bathroom. 

Brent unwillingly posed for a picture so he could grace our story here.

On a side note... over the last weekend Phillip learned to cut glass. Steve at Arrow Glass Company in Healdsburg, graciously loaned us one of his own personal glass cutters. Phillip pulled antique glass out windows that were salvaged but not being used, and set to learn how a glass cutter really worked. Fortunately there were quite a few salvaged windows, and once he worked his way through the issues of a first time user we had glass in the lites of the door above the front door, and a huge empty box of band-aids!

Not a great quality picture, but the glass is definitely in place and we are sealed from the elements.

June 21, 2010

The Door is red and her skirts are down

A huge busy weekend just whizzed past us, and after two 12 hour days we are completely beaten up.

But lots of things happened.

Phillip learned to use our paint sprayer to put a final coat of paint on the front door. I have to admit to everyone that once again we did not stick to our guns and allowed ourselves to be swayed. We went to the Benjamin Moore Paint store in search of a certain shade of red paint... you know the one, that shade of lipstick you wear with your "come @*%$ me pumps", or think "Jungle Red" so favored by Joan Crawford in "The Women". We wanted a lovely old fashioned oil based paint. Well, as some of you know, and some do not, the state of California has decided that oil based paint is ultimate downfall of our environment, and paint companies were forced to reformulate their paint for use here. The Benjamin Moore salesman ensured us that a water based paint with an extender in it would be far superior to the oil and flow just beautifully... how do I say this delicately? "Superior my ASS!" By the time Phillip was able to get his brush to the bottom of the door along one side, the top was already drying. The extender turns out to be fifteen dollar snake oil, and not worth its weight in dog poo. But once the first coat was on there was no turning back. Three coats with a brush and a final sprayed to try to salvage the texture of the surface. Its not really too bad, but it does not have that lovely smooth, stroked surface that oil base paint has. If anyone is heading to Nevada, Utah, Oregon, or Arizona, we sure could use a cross the border, oil paint smuggling!

Dressed to kill, or give ET a good anal probe, Phillip prepares to enter the spray booth.

 He is going to do what to my what?

Behind the filmy wall Phillip began his work of spraying a final coat of red and then brushing it out lightly to remove the stipple effect.

And "red" she is!

Hours and hours of labor into this door and she was ready to hang. Phillip spent all day Saturday on the hardware. Reproduction hardware that we had stripped of its "Antiqued" finish, and then like the hinges it was soaked in acids and buffed to a lovely patina. The decorative part of the hardware was created by a company to companion with a Baldwin entry lock. We found the marriage of the two to be a marriage that was not perfect and required many a trip to the hardware store for screws and files.

We will have to darken the screws, and get a longer cylinder lock (the one that was sent must be for a thinner door) but considering that it is new, it is very striking.

Endless amounts of time were spent hanging, removing, tweaking, rehanging, chiseling and sanding, until the front door hangs and operates beautifully. I have to say we love our "boy is that door red" front door, and its really nice to be able to lock the house at the end of the day.


For my part the weekend involved  a remounting of the skirting on the front of the house. We needed to put it back on so that a photograph could be taken. The photograph is for an insurance underwriter. We are graduating from "Builders risk" to big boy insurance from State Farm. Builders risk didn't really cover much and we are grateful to finally be in a position of getting real grown-up, home owners insurance. 

The skirt of the front of the house is the original one that was removed prior to the lift. The skirt for the sides of the house did not survive the removal because... hmmm, that's a really good question, I have some things to say about it but I should not do so in polite society. Brent (our part time helper) and I worked away in the hot sun coaxing the supports and the original boards back into position. We then sanded them down to the bare wood and prepared them for filling. By the end of the day on Monday the house will look pretty darn good from the front, and a Kodak moment will take place.

Not bad for one hundred and forty year old one by fourteen redwood.

So we wind the weekend up with a red front door, our structure covered by a skirt, and Sherwin Williams as our new paint company.

June 15, 2010

One year when the parade passes by

 227 North Street sometime between 1930 and 1950

It had to happen... June 15th 2010...  It was exactly one year ago today that we signed the papers and officially became the proud new owners of, well, the, uh, that, uh... the wreck otherwise known as 227 North Street. The whole year has flown by and we have so, so far to go with the restoration. But every day a little bit, and every little bit adds up to a lotta bits, and a lotta, lotta bits add up to a whole bit! Ahhhh, we should live so long!

*** New Flash ***

Small town life, Healdsburg, California

Memorial Day weekend led us to a new discovery about our home. The Tuesday prior to the holiday trucks began to park beside our house on Fitch street. The great big, my "hmm-hmm" is too small, kind of trucks... you know the kind, with tires so tall that you need an escalator to get inside. Yellow caution tape was strung between the trucks blocking any access to the street side all along our property, including blocking off any access to our carriage house, not that we needed to use it, but if we did, too bad. Fast forward to Thursday 6 pm, the kick off of the holiday weekend which begins with the "Future Farmers of America" parade and fair. All of those trucks were now laden with folks in folding chairs, likewise every available bit of street side and sidewalk was covered with happy parade viewing fans. And what a parade it was! I used to live in South Pasadena very near the line up route for the Festival of Roses parade. We would rise before the sun on New Years day and walk down to "Orange Grove Boulevard" to view the floats all lined up and ready for the world to see them, so I had high expectations for the local Healdsburg parade! And I was not disappointed. Anyone and anything may grace the parade route if they can pay the entrance fee, and anyone and anything, indeed paraded through town. If you were not in the parade you were watching it.

 Yep, even Shriners... 
I seem to remember silly little cars and big shoes, I guess time moves forward even in this small town.

June 14, 2010

Into the door and outa the door, and don't forget, the finished floors

   My writing today is all about doors... stories and pictures of doors... whoo hoo! So I thought a bit of beauty was in order. This is a quick shot of Lake Sonoma that Phillip snapped with his Iphone. We sure do live in amazingly beautiful country. Now onto doors!

We have been on long haul projects the past few weeks and they seem to go on forever. Take the flooring for example... how many weeks? seven I think, of continuous measuring, and choosing, and cutting, and gluing, and drilling, and nailing, and now... all three thousand square feet of Black Walnut flooring have been laid, (or is it layed or Leiaed? lets ask Oprah!) and covered in brown paper so that we no longer even see them, out of sight out of mind, forgotten, don't even know they are there... until something gets droped and we suddenly cringe, and it takes a moment to remember why we are cringing... oh yeah the new floors.
Now it is all about doors. Exterior doors, not interior. The Front door, the back door, the door above the front door, the dining room doors, the study doors, and the master bedroom doors. Arg, there are so many.
The dining room, study and master bedroom doors are all brand new replications of a door that was in the house that we are pretty sure was on it when it was built. That door which used to reside in the dining room will now grace the kitchen as the back door.

It like all of the old doors has been meticulously stripped to the bare wood. Layers and layers of ancient paint carefully removed with chemical stripper, a heat gun, and hours of sanding. That followed by the application of different types of wood fillers, then more sanding, then priming with an oil based primer and then more sanding, more primer, more sanding... you get the drift. Isn't this an exciting post!

The kitchen door, stripped bare and awaiting filling, priming, and sanding.

The door to the right is the door above the front door and it is now ready for glazing, and installation. I think we are going to have to seal it closed so that we can pass all of our inspections, but someday we will be able to open it and step out onto the portico, and... I guess we shall wave to all of the little people. We will have to don white gloves and learn the queens wave. Not that kind of queen, a real queen, with a tiara and everything!

The door to the left is the front door "before", after it was sent to the cabinet maker to increase its size so that it would fit the opening. And below it the front door stripped of all paint and finishes, filled, sanded, primed and ready for painting. We still need to match the molding for the lower panels, but one thing at a time.
The dining room doors, hung and ready for glass and paint.

The study doors. These are really beautiful and have wonderful proportions. These are in our future office and it will be wonderful to throw them open to the side yard while we are working.

The final door in today's post is the new basement door. This one we actually built from salvaged lumber that was removed from the old section of the house that we tore down. A few weeks ago we arrived at the house to find that someone, or someones, or somethings, or a couple of dras ah frassen god @*$ sons a #%@#'s, had hauled two chairs into our basement and proceeded to set up a table and have a little coffee klatch under our home, while we were not there, on private property, without permission. They left behind empty frappa, frappa drinks and Turkish cigarettes. Unfortunately Phillip threw it all away or I would have called in CSI to spray some magic spray around that always seems to identify the culprits. To say the least it was very disturbing. So, to the lumber pile we went. The door is made from true dimension two by eight, one hundred and forty year old planks, and weighs about three hundred pounds. Phillip and carried into the basement after it was complete so that we could position it and measure the width for trimming. I was sure it was too wide for the opening and as we struggled to lift its mass into place it slipped right into its new home, a perfect fit. All it needed was its hinges and a latch, that is if we could get a hold of it and pull it back out of the door jamb, where it now comfortably and heavily rested literally trapping us in the basement. The back of the door is smooth and we could not get a grip on it anywhere. It was eight thirty in the evening and as luck did have it that day, Brent (our part time worker) had yet to leave and came running to the rescue at our insistent shouting.

It is a fun door and we will be building two more of them, one for the wine cellar and one for the doorway that separates the two large sections of our basement. If anyone happens two know two shady creatures that drink frappa frappa drinks, smoke Turkish cigarettes, and like to hang out in semi dangerous dark and cool places...
Call me!