Thursday, March 31, 2011

Getting a handrail on things

Whenever you look at bringing an old or historic home back to life you will be confronted with terms like

For the most part, people seem to use the words "renovation" and "remodeling" interchangeably while "rehabilitation" is the dirty word, whispered fearfully behind closed doors. No worries, rehabilitation really only means "bringing a habitat back to a livable condition". Yes, our Darling Duckling is a "Rehab" property and it took me a while to come to peace with the term. Before it always sounded scary and frankly, depending on the property in question it can be (remember the movie "The Moneypit"? Yeah, like that) - an all encompassing renovation taking the house to the studs and rebuilding it step by step.

Well, no. If you're bringing the plumbing up to code, the wiring and the heat and air system, guess what? You're rehabbing a property and it doesn't matter of it's a 1950s bungalow, a 1880s Victorian or a 1980s concrete block home. Rehab is good! It can be painful, expensive, even dragging on but the end result is so worth it.

So, we're rehabbing our house with bits and bops of restoration thrown over time as much as our budget allows.
Inside our house we're allowed to do whatever we want - there are no rules and/or regulations in place that tells us what we have to restore, when and how, nobody to tell us that we cannot have high-gloss ultra modern cabinetry and modern art on the walls.
Outside we are required to make sure things look appropriately historic. I mean, geee, that's why we are living in our historic neighborhood - we really love the way each house is different, how vintage touches exude charm and pride in craftmanship and how everything fits together in a naturally grown kind of way rather than the cookie-cutter neighborhoods that won't even allow you to hang a flag outside your house so you can find your way home.

Oh, look! I'm going off on a tangent! Heh ...

Anyways, some restoration projects will have to wait until our budget has recovered from the rehabilitation shock therapy, for example the stair case. We know the original molding of our staircase is intact and will be kept safe in its drywall enclosure until the great day we have enough of the appropriate kind of spindles, a befitting handrail and money to rebuild that and a new newel post for the bottom step.

[There's a peek through the door for you]

For now we'll be keeping the half-open divider wall and the 80s handrail but we found something that will allow us to make it look a bit nicer than those cheapo brackets that are currently holding up the handrail.

[Source: Van Dyke's Restorers, soon to be featured at the Duckling]

They match the design of one of our interior door knobs (our house is a treasure trove of door knob styles) and their solid shape works great with less frilly, more down-to-earth approach of a Bungalow-style house like ours. I'm not 100% sure how historically accurate they are for our house - they were clearly in use and available for purchase when our house was built - but that's the extent of my knowledge. Those vernacular style houses - houses built by small builders - are a style-muddle in and of themselves caught in transition between the more official styles. Oh look, another tangent ... I should probably take a break right now :o)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sneak Peek

Here's a first peek into a room I haven't talked much yet: theeeeee library!

That's because for the past couple of weeks it's been delegated to official downstairs storage lair for odds and ends, cabinets and appliances and general disaster zone. With the kitchen progressing beautifully, there was just enough space for me to squeeze in and try out the color we'd picked out for this room. The one requirement for it? It had to go with this

[source: Bradbury & Bradbury]

It's so pretty I'm gonna die! (Remember Agnes, the littlest girl with the unicorn obsession, from "Despicable Me" - I really dig her)

Here it is in action

[source: Bradbury & Bradbury]

It's my own personal Kohler faucet. You know, the one from the commercial where there lady whips out the Kohler faucet in that high-end architect's bureau and demands they design a house around it leaving the star architect stumped? Yeah, that kind. I want it, I want it and by God, I will find a spot for it! The library struck me as the perfect spot for it.

[Painting in progress]

Back to the library. The color's name is "Sweet Woodruff" - a light silvery sage-y green that looks simply lovely on the walls and makes a great backdrop for the frieze from heaven. Husband has his heart set on floating wood shelves for the library so it'll be peeking out from between glossy stained wood and books. Can't wait to see everything in its place!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Batten down the hatches!

Over the weekend I continued my faux batten and board treatment in the Master bedroom. The husband was off camping with the little man at the Greater Jacksonville Camp Out enjoying some quality man-to-man time while I got to mess around at our Duckling house scot free!

No, I didn't paint anything in forbidden colors aka colors not mutually agreed upon or get a head start on flooring the laundry or the dressing room since negotiations are still on-going. Nooo! I got the big girl pants and the tools and continued working on the batten and board in our bedroom.

  • furring strips
  • liquid nails
  • brats
  • paintable caulk

[In-progress: Chair rail is up]

First I installed the chair rail part. I measure each piece, cut it and after spreading a decent amount of liquid nail on the back put it in place using a level to make sure that each board is, well, level. Nope, I didn't bother with mitered corners. I simply butted the edges and caulked right over it. I know, I know, it's not that hard and I promise I'll get to mastering mitered corners soon. I did, however, miter the bottom corners of each batten so they wouldn't jut out so much from the base board.

[Applying liquid nails]

This was really the super easy part even though I discovered that either it was measuring with the Little Man or my difficulty with anything non-metric that caused me to end up with a 3 foo gap. I guess one trip to the blue box is in order.

After that I started with adding the battens to the trickiest part of one of the walls: tucked between the door and a window there is a light switch and an outlet. I decided that the spacing between my battens needed to be based on what worked for this part.

[In-progress: battens in place]

After I'd positioned those first two starting battens I used a piece of board to help space the battens in the correct distance from each other. There are a few spaces where I had to veer from that first course, tweaking the distance a bit so it corresponds better with the architectural features (doors, windows, etc) in the room than slavishly following a set measurement. It looks much more balanced that way. I caulked along the seams between the rail and the battens and everything is now ready for paint!

That is if I can make up my mind whether I want to add short battens underneath the windows ... What do you think?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Batten & Board Prep

For the bedroom, husband and I have been oogling batten and board as a possible wall treatment. We both like how it's equally rustic and chic, casual and elegant and how it would harmonize with the existing architectural features.

Here's how other bloggers have tackled this project:
The Casabella Project
House of Smiths
Pancakes and French Fries

It's the little things

Technically, we're not really doing a batten and board treatment on the walls. We're skipping the board part, just adding the battens which were traditionally used to cover the seams between the boards, and calling it a day. So, here's what the bedroom looked at the beginning of the project:

[Before ... or is it In-progress? Master Bedroom freshly painted]

We divided the walls in our bedroom on the same height as the window sashes, painting the lower, bigger half in Behr's Ultra Pure White in semi-gloss and the upper half in Valspar's Shaded Lake.
One of the bloggers recommended furring strips for this project and since they fit the bill (cheap and easy) that's what I picked up: several 1x2s and 1x4s. They are raw wood and of course needed to be primed and painted. I chose to prime first, then install and finish painting them along with giving the walls their second coat.

Let the priming begin! Here the boards are laid out in the Masterbathroom. The 1x4s are already primed, the 1x2s are in progress. In order to save time priming them on three sides I simply scooched them together into a tight bundle which allowed me to prime whichever side I was priming on all of them in one fell swoop!

All primed! Stay tuned for Batten & Board: part two of the Saga!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Perfect Paint

So far husband and I have been cruising smoothly through the dangerous waters of rehabilitation. For the most part, we see eye to eye on where we want to take our Darling Duckling house and the items we disagree on until we can find a way that pleases both of us are far and few in between. Phew! Crisis averted!

After plenty of years living with swine and other neutral shades of beige colored walls we are so ready for color on our walls without turning our home into a primary color pre-school nightmare (well, except for the Little Man cave, I suppose). There is teal and turquoise, blue and yellow - all beautifully offset against crisp white trim (yeah well, not in all rooms yet. I'll get there. Promised)

Our entrance hall aka vestibule or antechamber stretches over 2 stories and opens into 3 rooms downstairs, all of which are or will be painted a different color. Clearly we needed a neutral color that works with all of them.
Paint chips to the rescue! We kept paint chips taped in the order/layout of the rooms taped to our bedroom wall to see if they worked and kept working for us even a few days later. Finally we settled on Valspar's "Milestone", a soft creamy Latte color that looked great with all of our other paint chips.

That is, until we put it on the wall.
I disliked it immediately. So did the husband.
We gave it a night to dry, hoping it'd dry to a better color more like the paint chip.
It didn't.
Major FAIL.
It was awful.

On our textured walls it was akin to ocre baby poop smeared all over the place. So not a good color for us! Funny enough, I still like the paint chip.

We emptied our bag of paint chips onto the big capstone of our porch outside and began rifling through the bits of color. Yes, yes, no, no, maybe, no, not bad until we'd separated the wheat from the chaff. The winner in the end was yet another National Trust for Historic Preservation color (notice a trend?) - Woodlawn Colonial Gray. Off to the store I went, grabbing a gallon of The Chosen One.

Here's the husband painting the parts I can't reach. What can I say - I'm short, and scared of heights to boot. Husband is tall and brave, and that makes us a great team :o)

[in progress]

Woodlawn Colonial Gray is the perfect type of "greige": soft and soothing and very mellow without being a dingy beige and with enough personality to play the leading role in our entrance hall. We are madly in love with it and are actually considering using it in our dressing room and master bath as well.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I see a red door and I want it painted black

After painting our front door a bright cheerful red to make sure guests will end up using the right door (and not the bigger original entry door), dear husband looked at me and asked one of those dreaded questions (the kind I don't necessarily have an answer for because, well, I hadn't had time to think about it yet):

"Are we going to paint the inside red, too?"
Err ... No, I don't think so ... that'd look odd and, you know, really set our color scheme for inside"

So we listened to the advice from the Rolling Stones, took our red (on the outside) door and painted it black (on the inside)

[Hey, good looking!]

It also took only 2 coats of semi gloss interior paint to achieve this beautiful rich slick black finish (as opposed to the red on the exterior: coat 5 and counting)

[painting in progress]

Together with the perfect shade of "greige" on the walls and white trim, our black door looks mighty sharp, we think.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The heat is on ... the heat is o-on

Larry, our AC sub-contractor, wasted no time and has been hard at work installing our new heat and air system over at the Ugly Duckling. We have a split system, one for upstairs and one for downstairs, to better battle the Florida heat in summer and the cold in the winter (and because the duct work was already set up for a split system during the Duplex Days of our house).

This upstairs closet that houses the upstairs furnace is tiny, and in order to fit in the new unit we had to widen the door way a little

[Fits like a glove]

Nice and shiny and taking a big chuck out of our renovation budget but while the old houses handle the Florida Summer Heat really well considering the lack of tons of high-end insulation of any sort, a well functioning heat and air system is a really nice thing to have.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cooking up a kitchen II

Right now all eyes are on the kitchen: it's pretty much the biggest overall project with refinished floors, new drywall, new electric and new plumbing. By the time you're reading this, I'm already itching to give you another update I'm sure!

[picture 1]
In this picture the kitchen project is already well underway: the floors are refinished and the electric panel has been flipped around so it faces the mudroom, not the kitchen. This was especially important since you cannot place cabinetry and/or an appliance within 3 feet of an electric panel. Not like that stopped the previous owner from having their dryer in that corner but we wanted to do it right.
Through the holes in the plaster and the wall to the right you can peek into the mudroom and adjoining half bath.

[picture 2]

Not anymore! No more peeking - the drywall went up and even though now all walls are enclosed, the kitchen appears bigger than ever. Yes, under all that dust and debris are those beautiful (semi) glossy hardwood floors - it has to get worse before it can get better. Really. Trust me. Trust your general contractor.

[picture 3]

So pretty! Here the kitchen is all drywalled, taped and mudded. There's even more dust now!

[picture 4]

Here's dear husband on paint duty cutting in the ceiling. The ceiling got a nice coat of Behr's Ultra Pure White. Nothing makes a room look as fresh and bright as a new coat of white ceiling paint (and a new trim job but we'll get to that later).

[Picture 5]

For the kitchen we wanted a cheerful sunny color since I expect us to spend a lot of time in it. I basically grew up in an eat-in kitchen - this is where we ate, where we did our homework, where we congregated for a snack, a cup of coffee or tea and a cookie, where we did crafts and where we simply hung out - and I'm really looking forward to having space for all of that and then some in my kitchen.

Overall I'm terribly fond of the Valspar National Historic Color line, and not just because we have a historic house. The colors are (obviously) timeless, classic and surprisingly versatile. For our kitchen we had our hearts set on yellow, but not just any kind of yellow. We didn't want an orange-y yellow nor were we in love with the lemon-y yellows. Not to mention the lime-y yellows with their hint of green.

Valspar to the rescue - their Homestead Resort Sunwash is simply perfect. It's a mellow yellow - bright and happy without being too loud or too weak, and it went on like a dream. We painted the small breezeway between dining room and kitchen to match and in the future you will catch a glimpse of sunwash from the living room begging you to come join us in the kitchen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Little Outdoor Lovin'

Our Ugly Duckling is slowly but surely turning into a Darling Duckling. Most of those changes are happening on the inside: fresh paint, refinished floors, clean bathrooms and a new kitchen, but every once in a while I ignore the list, turn the priority list upside down and spread a little love on the outside of our little old house.

Here's what we did over the past couple of weeks; painted the bench, painted the door and window frames, painted the entrance door, moved Griswold our mailbox over to the entrance door, installed new outdoor lighting and created a planter with a blooming, yet shade-loving vine and some sweet potatoes in a red planter we already owned (although I might paint it to match the red door).

The 'crackle finish' of the porch floor are the first signs of us gearing up to paint it; we simply spackled the smaller cracks and screw holes from where the former handrail was fastened with a concrete spackle.



It's all slowly coming together

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday,
lieber Papa,
Happy Birthday to you!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Halfway there

Going upstairs at the Ugly Duckling you reach a small landing next to a large window before the stairs make a 90 degree turn for the last few steps. Covered in grimey linoleum it wasn't much to look at and removing layers of little loved floor treatments didn't do a whole lot to make it look better. Remember this?

[Before: Sad, damaged landing]

No question - this floor needed some serious repairs. There were fist-sized holes left behind from our woodloving pests and it was quite apparent that those floor boards had been neglected for many many years.

[In-Progress: damaged floor boards removed]

Once the floor boards were removed, we discovered the secret use of the hollow space between the ceiling of the closet underneath the stairs and the floor of the landing: waste plaster receptable. During the construction of the Ugly Duckling, the workers obviously hadn't bothered to dispose of left over plaster in a dumpster or trash can. Nuh-uh. They simply dropped it in there. Floor boards went over that and it was out of sight, out of mind.

They also dropped something else. Trash but this is the "kind of cool" type of trash

[Piedmont cigarette pack, front]

That's right! Joe discovered an empty pack of Piedmont cigarettes amidst the rubble. A quick search online turned out that they were really popular in the 1910s and are nowadays favored and sought after by collectors for the baseball cards that could be found in certain production lines of Piedmont cigarettes. Alas, no baseball card in ours and overall it's in rough shape but we think it's mighty cool after all.


This will make a great addition to our house's keepsake shadowbox we're planning to create at some point (once the chaos dies down).

[After: new floor boards]

After the excitement died down a bit, the new floor boards went up and now our new landing floor is waiting patiently for its stain and polyurethane so it will look just as great as our downstairs floors.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Almost ready to take a bath ...or as we prefer it, a shower. The upstairs hallway bathroom is alternating between the stages "done" and "in-progress". It was "done" for a while, then we switched out sinks (from vanity to antique pedestal sink here].

It was "done" again for a short while, until we discovered that there was NOT.ONE.SINGLE.OUTLET in the entire bathroom. Clue: the electrician who bust a new hole into my freshly painted bathroom walls followed by spackle and paint touch-ups.

It was "done" for a little while again, until the shower rod arrived in the mail. I snatched up a great deal on a curved shower rod with liner and hooks at for about $30 total thanks to a coupon that was burning a hole into my pocket.

[New shower rod]

Husband went to town, measured, marked, drilled and about an hour later we had a beautiful new shower rod and liner gracing our hall bathroom.

And while the curve doesn't look at all pronounced, the space gain inside the shower is MASSIVE! No more cold shower curtain sticking to you in the shower, no more elbows getting trapped in cold wet shower curtain folds.

Curved shower rod - Go, get one; you know you want one!

[Oh yeah, and of course I need to touch up the paint again where husband marked the walls ... ]

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More door

If the entry about our red door was all about lipstick chic, this is a post about mascara and eye shadow. While the current exterior color isn't my favorite, there's nothing really wrong with it.

It's a very light subtle grey-blue, but unfortunately it's offset against this dingy dirty dark grey blue. And God help me, that annoys me just a little bit. Fortunately it's nothing a little paint and ellbow grease can't fix!

[Before: Original entry door with sidelights. Notice the drab
blue color on the frame]

Out came wood filler, caulk and primer and turned the door into this ...

[Half primed - can you see how much fresher it looks?]

After the primer had dried, I started painting the inside of the frames with the same warm dark grey paint that we've used for the cap stones already. It's always funny (and slightly disconcerting) how it looks almost brown when it goes on ...

[After: Look! detail, contrast ...ahhh, so much better!]

Better. Not perfect yet but getting better bit by bit. There's for one that yellowed mini blind in the center that's ... yeah, not pretty. And since the transom window is missing the top part could use some beefing up with trim. Ahh, the list of projects - it never shrinks!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cooking up a kitchen

One of the projects we simply -had- to tackle was a new kitchen for our Ugly Duckling. Both existing kitchens (one upstairs and one downstairs since the Duckling had been turned into a Duplex) were simply gross and -had- to go. While it would have been nice to simply reface or even paint and freshen up an existing kitchen, this one turned into a total gut job (although we did keep a few wall cabinets for use in the utility and laundry room later).

Compared to the national average cost of remodeling a kitchen, our budget is nigh non-existent aka -very- modest. Shopping smart was definitely a must for us, and after looking at a number of budget-friendly options (, and even stock cabinetry from the blue/orange box) we settled on a kitchen from IKEA. It gave us the most bang for our buck and except for the cabinet knobs it was a one-stop-shop experience to boot. Viveka from the kitchen department at IKEA Orlando took great care of us and despite a small hiccup in regard to the communication with the delivery department that lead to a 3 day delay in delivery, all things went as smoothly as possible.

Last week, the truck rolled into town and dropped off a load of boxes at the Ugly Duckling. 77 items, to be precise, from cabinets and doors over hinges and toe kicks to counter tops and filler panels.

[Lots'a boxes]

[More boxes]
We chose the future library downstairs as my workspace. Here I could put the cabinets together while our Joe, Gloria and Phil turned our floors into the pride of the Ugly Duckling. Having grown up with IKEA, I love everything about it and I guess I'm also one of the lucky ones who've never had an issue with IKEA building instructions. Maybe it's a European thing. It's how we roll in the ol' country ...heh.

Anyways, first order of business was sorting the various pieces into cabinet piles consisting of a cabinet frame (either wall or base), appropriate door/doors and organizing element (drawers, etc.). Hinges, door and drawer dampers and feet I kept in a separate box. That way I could simply reach into it and pick what I needed without running into danger of losing smaller pieces.

[Ohhh, piles ...]

[One cabinet finished & the 2nd in the making]

All you need to put these cabinets together successfully are a hammer and a Phillips screwdriver. Drawers are "plug and play" and click together and the only thing that had me stumped for a bit was when I attached a drawer face upside down. Thanks to google and the internet, this issues was resolved quickly (and funny enough, it appears this is a common happenstance) and everything progressed smoothly from there.

[One last picture for those who offered to swing by for a cabinet building party; this was all the free space I had. Crammed between boxes, countertops and more boxes, not to mention any finished cabinets, it was all a bit ...tight.]

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lipstick Chic

"I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing.
I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick."
Audrey Hepburn

Florida's early spring weather is fantastic and this past weekend I went on strike: no projects inside. Instead, I took my painting outside enjoying the beautiful weather while sprucing up the outside of our Ugly Duckling a bit.
The exterior color isn't that bad - a light blue-ish grey - but what brings it down is the combination with even drabber - more drab? - dark blue-grey as accent color. I was itching to paint the window and door trim outside a crisp clean white and decided to test my theory on the big original door on the front left of our house (stay tuned for pictures of this project).

Dear husband came back from a quick trip to the blue box loaded with paint and presented a can of Valspar's National Historic Preservation color line with a flourish: red for our entry door. He couldn't wait to get started. We scrubbed, patched with woodfiller, sanded and de-glossed the door before priming it.

Then we broke out the paint

[First daring brush strokes]

Holy Guacamole! What a COLOR!

The first coat turned our door smoking hot pink. Our little man screeched with horror "It's a girl door!!!" but fortunately, when I added coat 2 and 3, thanks to a sunny Monday things started to look up and a bit more like the paint chip.

[Much better!]

And here's our Darling Duckling with her freshly painted door.

Painting it red was a no-brainer for us - we simply like a red door and the color goes with the current color scheme - but of course I poked around online for a bit more info on why red is such a traditional color for an entry door.

Early American - American settlers would paint their doors red as sign that travelers were welcome.
Feng Shui - A red door supposedly draws positive energy into your house
Scotland - A red door signalizes a paid-off mortgage
Christianity - A red door symbolizes hallowed ground and is free from evil
Ireland - A red door would ward off evil spirits.

And on top of that, it's like lipstick for your house - look at the Duckling! What a babe!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Floor Magic - Step by Step

Phil giving the floors a final thorough vacuuming to remove the last bit of dust

Joe applying the stain ("Walnut" from Minwax)

Joe applying more stain - here he is in the dining room

Staining completed

Gloria brushing on the first (of three) coat of polyurethane

Be still my beating heart but those floors are fabulicious!

So so beautiful!

The walnut stain was a good choice. Husband was worried at first that it'd turn out too dark but the reddish undertones of the heart pine transforms the stain into a rich chocolate color that brings out the grain in most beautiful ways. Simply gorgeous.

Now I can die a happy homeowner :o)