October 26, 2012

Sometimes, you just gotta cut something

Today I feel like I am on the verge of breaking one of my own rules. If it wasn't for the fact that we did this to save an immense amount of money, and yet attempt to not compromise style and finesse, I would feel this post was on the verge of posts that I despise on home restoration blogs... Gramma's famous cookie recipe, little Susie's latest potty training escapade, or the worst of the worst... A give away contest!

One Moment Please...

My apologies, after I wrote that last sentence and began to shake so badly I had to walk away from the computer.

I am referring to the cabinetry we had to cut from our breakfast room. A lovely piece designed to be a continuous flow across the thirty five foot wide space. But that cabinet was just shy of nine thousand dollars....

Click on this image so you can see it larger, the cabinet we cut is the far left side

So we let it go and moved on. I have kept my eye open for something to go there, especially as the time for closing down storage drew near. Nothing is ever perfect but I looked, and looked.
One day a picture popped up on Craigs list. Like everything else I had seen, it was not perfect, but if you squinted your eyes and looked beyond the ungapatchka

(Yiddish word that describes the overly ornate, busy, ridiculously over-decorated, and garnished to the point of distaste)

There was something there that could almost work...

Do not look at the far right of the picture... I have no explanation, hee hee, you looked!
This photo came from the man we bought the cabinet from... I think it is him... eeeeek!

We met the owner and struck a deal, and now we are the proud owners of, well, ummmmm, that southwesty thing that is eight feet tall and weighs a couple of tons.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for a makeover!

And  a makeover we did... the following photo montage will show you the process and the finished product.

So beautiful, well maybe ten years ago, super southwest patinad molding, its gotta go

Little trim bits and corner flowers... eeeek! they gotta go too!

Piece by piece I carefully removed the moldings

A shim, a small crowbar, and a putty knife were my friends. I did not want to hurt the surface if I could help it

Small trim moldings gone, and flowers replaced with simple square blocks

Now came the time for sanding. Days of sanding every nook and cranny in preparation for two serious coats of primer and finish coats of high gloss oil to match the Kitchen cabinets.

At this point we have decided to leave the inside alone and cross our fingers it would work
Primed and ready for finishing, we decided the best approach to finish paint was to put the cabinet in position

Time for more sanding

The cabinet found its way to its new home, and I began the sanding task again in preparation for the finish paint. Hour and hours of sanding. I was in the home stretch when our dear old friend, and interior designer, Stewart Allen, visit his website here, walks in... "don't you dare paint that, your sanded primer is perfect in this room"... um... well... but... it looks so...


You have to understand that I hate, and I know I am not supposed to use the word hate, but I hate Shabby Chic. Whats wrong with a nice clean paint job? Why does it have to look like you picked it up at the dump and you are showing off to everyone how environmentally conscious you are by using recycled furniture, even though most of it is faked and cost twice what the original piece cost new.

But, I stopped working on the piece and just let it be. I figured we would live with it for a while.

New molding and handles made all of the difference

For the moment we are done with it. All of the over flow of kitchen items found a home and we certainly have many, many other things to focus on.

But fear not... I will sneak in someday and paint it proper... Will someone please let me know when Shabby Chic goes out of style!


October 02, 2012

Deck the house

We are alive and well in Healdsburg. Fall is upon us and somehow it is October first, I don't know how that happened. Now that the house is bank financed and some of the external pressure is off, we have managed to take a day here and there and actually discover where it is that we live. Boy were we surprised to discover that San Francisco is only an hour away... who would have thought! We have had guests stay with us, and although it is still a bit on the rough side, no one is complaining, well, not too much anyway. Our work on the house has taken us down two paths. The first is a mad attempt to get our belongings out of storage so that we can continue to cut expenses. We have brought many boxes over from the big unit and yet it seems as full as ever. It is time for action! In two weeks we are going to rent a big u-haul, load everything out of the big storage space and bring it here. Sort through it, keep, donate, dispose of, or yard sell everything! We are penciling in four entire days for this task, and hope to accomplish the impossible by the end, an empty and no longer being paid for storage space! So mark your calendars....

BIG YARD SALE OCTOBER 13TH AND 14TH, in the front yard

The second focus for us has bee Decking the house, but before I go into that we have...

- A Word from our Sponsor -

It is always fascinating to run across your house in an old photograph, or newspaper, or even old postcards. It has come to our attention that the house is also now in paint. Landscape artist John Farnsworth of Healdsburg, has been spotted lurking behind the trees across the street, with paint brush and easel in hand, paint flying everywhere as he madly captured our home in oils. Our home and other of John's paintings will be available to view during ARTrails in Healdsburg, October 13-14 and 20-21. Visit John's website for more information...  farnsworthart.com

I hope we get a super, super discount on the piece, I mean we didn't call the cops or anything!

We have been building the deck that wraps around the side of the house and across the back. Part of the super structure was built a year and a half ago so that we would have access to the back door and the electric panel. And now we are continuing down the west side. Eventually it will look something like this...

 The double doors are the doors that go into the Dining room, which currently have a nine foot drop outside of them, but not for long!

Building deck supports means getting to play with...


What is it about a cement truck that is just so irresistible!

Footing were the name of the game, nine of them. Six smaller for the secondary support near the house, and three large and serious holes ten feet out.

Cement poured, supports removed, cardboard forms stripped away, and then onto beams, timbers, joists, and a gazillion blocks. The blocking is to support the deck boards which will run perpendicular to the house, as opposed to parallel to the house which is most common in deck construction. We are applying the top perpendicular to the house as a nod to a traditional porch, except that this one is so sturdily built that when we finally get that helicopter we will have a place to land it.

The low cement wall in this shot is the original support for the old porch, the city would not let us use it.

The super structure is now ninety nine percent finished, and next comes the positioning of the base posts for the railing, followed by the prestaining, on the underside, of the clear redwood that will be applied to the top. This redwood top cost an absolute fortune and I now have even more respect for recycled, and reused lumber.

In the next few weeks, pictures of the stained redwood top... but we don't dare walk on it... no footprints allowed!


August 06, 2012

Ding Dong Dumb Dumbs

An old door bell, not the type that has a crank handle that you twist to ring a bell, but a somewhat newer style, newer from the 1940's, that has a clock and chime tubes that are actually struck by little hammers, sounded like a fun idea. A few months back, in preparation for the eventual arrival of the door chime, meaning when funds allowed, we had removed the trim around the exterior of the front door, drilled a very long and slender hole to the basement, and wired a doorbell button, which sometime in the future a guest would be able to push "to ring the bell". All good so far.

The Nu-Tone Jefferson was the bell we had in mind

On we have carried and continued to work inside the house. Room after room was insulated and dry-walled, wood work resurfaced and reinstalled, layers of veneer plaster applied to the walls, and woodwork filled, primed and sanded, ready for finish paint. The center hall was the last of the ground floor to be done and it looked beautiful even without its final trim paint and we moved on to the second story. Finally the day came that a Nu-Tone Jefferson door chime was listed for sale that was somewhat affordable, and although in terrible condition we knew we could rebuild and refinish it. Unfortunately I failed to photograph the process but suffice it to say that we both spent hours and hours reworking it to make it pretty and functional.

We were finally ready to hang the doorbell and await the first visitor who would push the button.

News Flash
It would appear that upon entering the center hall with the restored door chime ready to hang, the boys of 227 North Street made a horrible discovery... The finished walls of the hall did not have any electric wiring in place for the chime. It has been disclosed that in their haste to plaster and complete the hall, these two fine gentlemen forgot to install the electrics for the bell.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

It's true. We had completely forgotten the door bell wire that lay forlornly in the basement below our feet. Chasing a wire through an insulated wall can sometimes be an impossible task. We were lucky that there was a penetration through the sill plate inside the wall, leading down to the basement fairly close to where the chime would hang. It was just reachable with small hands, by removing an electric plug in the office, on the other side of the wall from the bell, and Phillip wiggled his hand inside the wall. But no amount of wire fishing would get through the insulation. Slowly the hole that the wire would go through,that would end up behind the chime mechanism, grew larger and larger, and insulation was pulled out of the wall through that hole one small wisp at a time. Phillip meanwhile was doing the same thing in the office by pulling the lower wall insulation out through the small plug opening in the baseboard. After struggling for hours the wall cavity was finally clear and the wire slid right down. Phillip was able to reach inside the wall, through the office plug opening and feed the wire down through the penetration in the sill plate into the basement. Moments later we had power and the bell would chime. Now we just need a visitor.

Insulation all over the place and an ugly black hole in the wall

but the magic wire was finally in place

All of that insulation came out of that small hole in the baseboard

Hanging proudly. Not everyone's cup of tea but it is fun when it chimes

In the ongoing effort to empty out at least one of our storage spaces we also continue to work on closets. After completing the master bedroom closet, we turned our attention to the linen closet, or the service closet as I now call it. A place to put sheets and towels, pillows and blankets, brooms and vacuums, and also the new home of those nasty tangles of wires, the modem, the router, music system hard drive and network box. We learned a lot about the closet system we are using while building our first closet in the master bedroom and we have become much more sufficient at using it. The linen/service closet is a much simpler design with a single unit across the end wall. We knew we had to build it inside the closet space itself and that of course proposed a problem. In order to assemble it properly one of us would have to be on the backside of it during construction. In true Edgar Allan Poe style, as in the Cask of Amontillado, Phillip would be walled in behind the new cabinet. But we got smart and built the cabinet eighteen inches shorter than the ceiling so that we could lift it into the air and he could climb out under it.

All fine and dandy, until it became to heavy to lift...

Only when I climbed the step ladder could I see just his hands

This is a shot taken before we realized we could not lift the cabinet.

We made a fleeting attempt to pass the step ladder over the cabinet so he could climb out, but it was simply to big and would not even clear the top. I grabbed a couple of two by fours and sawed one at 36 inches and one at 24 inches. I put a screw into each one and onto the screw I tied a long length of string. The two by fours were passed over the top of the cabinet and leaned upright against the wall. Phillip braced himself and used the two by fours as precarious steps so that he could climb up and over the top, pulling the two by fours out behind him by their strings.

Over the top and down the front, he was finally free

Not as glamorous as the Master bedroom but very serviceable

Someday when I have lots of free time, maybe I will add some trim to dress it up

So our work weekend came to a close with a number of blunders and unforeseen obstacles. The closet proposed some issues and and if we ever take on a house like this again we would definitely spend some time designing closets from the very beginning so that we would have a very clear vision of where cables and wiring are to be. 

Of course if you simply forget to install them all is for naught.


July 23, 2012

back in the closet

Hi everyone! We made it. We managed to finish enough of the work around here that an appraiser was able to come in, and not have to report back that we were under construction. It is amazing what you can do with smoke and mirrors, and a number of judiciously placed large pieces of art. We appraised high enough for our refinance to sail through and we are no longer under the time constraints we have had over the last three years. We are now plowing forward, and making an attempt to finish (I am using that word rathah loosely) the first two floors before the holidays. Still five million details to go, but we are making headway.

The down side to our new mortgage is our payments are much higher than they used to be. Our payments for the first three years were incredibly low so that we could put all of our earnings into the house, the big rips in the butt of both of my work jeans will attest to that (I hope I remembered to wear underwear this morning). Higher payments means we need to cut down on some expenses, and one of our ongoing high ticket items is storage. Two large units holding the contents of our Los Angeles home for almost four years. Crazy! Especially when you consider that we have lived without it all for so long... do we really need any of it? The key to the largest of the storage spaces is all of the clothing and contents of the master bedroom closet. Wardrobe box after wardrobe box packed full of clothes and assorted sundries. In order to move them here and meld some of it into what we already have, we need a closet installation.

We began by looking at companies like California Closets, and Easyclosets. I am sure they are great companies, we even used one of them in our last home, but when you layout the furniture you want in the closet and hit the estimate cost button it is a bit, well... shocking! And that initial price is for particle board structure covered in a plastic coating that is printed to look like wood. That much money for plastic printed to look like wood? Someone please explain this to me. Real wood veneers are available from some companies but that falls into one of the two most despicable words/phrases in renovating... UPGRADE, the other being CHANGE ORDER! Both of these make the hair on the back of my neck stand right up!

So step up to the DIY plate boys and make it work.

We came across a product line called Shortcutz. Shortcutz is a small line of prefinished (including one edge), 3/4 inch thick plywood sheets, with three different wood veneer choices as the finished surface. It basically come 12", 16", or 24" wide, by 8' tall. Available in no holes, holes one side, or holes both sides. They also have 1/4" thick, and 3/4" thick prefinished, 4' by 8' sheets of veneered plywood, and components to make drawer boxes. That's pretty much it. Everything else you might need for trimming out is pretty standard lumberyard goods, and hardware we ordered from one of the many companies that sell Hafele products.

We designed the closet around a very large dresser that we already owned, and tried to make it look as much like a furniture installation as we could. We added baseboards, a flat crown, and did some face framing. We did the later two in maple to match the shortcutz pieces, and in hindsight I think we have done ourselves more proud to have done them in quartersawn oak to match the dresser, but it looks damn good for our first closet, built from better products, and probably cost a third of the order and have installed companies.

The Shortcutz 24' wide sheets

1/4" thick, prefinished backer board

As I do not own a sliding compound miter saw, we had to use a guide and our skill saw to make the cuts. The masking tape is to prevent chipping of the finished veneer layers.

Looking into the left side

Looking up at the right side

Looking from right to left across the center unit

A view from outside with the doors partially closed

The right side

Rumors are flying again that the boys who own 227 North Street are not staying true to the time period of their home and have gone so far as to add something that could only have been thought of as science fiction (if thought of at all) in 1870... Air conditioning! One week ago the two items in question were installed outside of the home, and although they are extreme high efficiency, somewhat subtle in their existence, and extremely quite in comparison, this reporter feels they should sweat it out like all of those who have lived in the house before them.

Now we wait for the redwood skirting (the lower wide trimboard for the house)

and now back to our regularly scheduled program...

We are getting very close to finishing the closet. The dresser is in, lighting all installed, plugs in place above the dresser surface (apparently people like to plug in their cell phones in such a spot), base boards are in in but still need painting, and a couple of hardware pieces have not arrived yet... 
but so close.

So far we have brought over 10 wardrobe boxes, and although we have set aside more than half of the contents to be donated, we have managed to meld the rest into what we currently have had at the house. The center unit is still under advisement as to what its use will be, hanging, or shelving, but when the jury comes back in I will let you know.

Oh, by the way, as I am sure all of you girls are saying "but what about the shoes!!!!" What you cannot see in the pictures above are the two show towers we built from 12" wide shortcutz sheets, each one will hold twelve  or more movable shelves. So fear not the shoes are safe and sound in their individual little cubbies.

More shelves yet to be cut