Sunday, December 21, 2014

Almost There!

Just a day before my parents arrived for their vacation with us we had reached the following stage (of completion):

Also known as "AD" / "Almost Done" we were almost done with painting. Both body colors were up, and all that is left to do is fine-tuning, trim work, and the porch floor.

That will most likely have to wait until after the holidays provided the weather plays along with days that are nice and sunny and not too cold.

The color?
We love it!
We are ecstatic that it turned out almost better than imagined and envisioned here.

Almost there!

After the holidays we will be back with more exterior goodness, but for now, this will have to do (and it does because, omigod, it's so much better than the flaky peeling blue and grey mess from before).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Color Going Up!

With my parents' impending arrival we were buckling down for good on the last free weekend.
Nothing, absolutely nothing is as inspiring and motivating as your parents coming for a visit. After all, you want to show them a little bit of progress, and we'd been talking long enough about painting the exterior so we wanted that baby done (or as much done as the weather allowed).

While it rained on and off on several days throughout the past couple of weeks, that last weekend was just brilliant, despite a weather forecast that stated the complete opposite.

So we decided to get at least the front painted.
No kidding.
In the beginning we had vowed not to start with the front because we had seen the occasional house where -just- the front had been painted while the rest lingered unfinished and forgotten. It's so easy to get sidetracked, so easy to be swept away by Life. We didn't want to risk that. Since we had hired help (Thanks, Mark!) coming to our rescue, however, we thought we were pretty safe in that we would get all the house painted at some point this year.

So here we go, starting with the front.
We had
and now, finally, we got to apply paint!

Here's yours truly atop the front porch roof getting started on painting the upstair's Sherwin-Williams' Oakmoss, a dark, sage-y green, color matched in Benjamin Moore paint.

Yes, I'm crazy excited about painting and seeing how lovely the color is turning out. The husband was mighty proud of me of braving the heights - I usually refuse to work on anything higher than 10ft up, but I felt pretty safe on the big ol' porch roof; it was almost like working on solid ground.

While I was up there, the husband and Little Man were down below.

Since you are supposed to paint 'top down' here's what it looked like after the first of two coats of Oak Moss upstairs:

Isn't it lovely?
Isn't the crisp contrast between the green and the creamy antique white just absolutely delicious?
No, the window frames weren't yet painted - good catch!

The order of painting is
1. Top down (start at the top and work your way down)
2. Details and trim last

While upstairs was drying and putting to use every bit of daylight we tackled the downstairs, first painting the ceiling Antique White, then rolling on the first coat of "Bosc Pear" onto the walls.

The change is drastic, almost more so downstairs than upstairs because Bosc Pear is such a warm, rich color - a huge change from the cool pale grey-blue we used to see.

And then the sun went down and night made it hard to see what we were painting so we called it a day!

The next day we would return for Coat II, paying no mind to our aching arms and backs and feet!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Elfing Around

December arrived, and with it our Elf on the Shelf, "Barrigade." This is our third year celebrating the holiday season with the daily antics of our silly elf, and just as last year I'm wondering if this will be our last. Little Man is now 11 years old and will be headed for Middle School in the summer, and well, how long can you actually keep on believing in a world that bares it all all the time?

So far, so good. There was some empirical testing (he secretly touched the elf only to find out he was still moving through the house and committing his silly pranks at night - results of this test are, as of yet, inconclusive ... heh. Besides, we 'believe' that if you stop believing in Santa or, in my German case, the Christkind, you will only receive socks and underwear as presents) but he was and is still pretty excited to find the elf in the morning.

Husband and I enjoy coming up with crazy ideas to make finding our little elf fun to start off the day. Mind you, we have never used him as a parenting tool and/or in-house creepy stalker secret agent - we have fun with it, and leave the rest to Little Man's imagination.

So here are a few shots of our elf from this year - more to follow! Enjoy!

Rough trip back from the North Pole 
or feeling sympathetic to Little Man's minor foot surgery?

Playing Little Man's least favorite game with Enderman

Worst cookies ever - Do not feed (milkbones) to Santa!

Catching up on the chocolate advent calendar for Little Man - yes, he stole a piece of chocolate when Little Man wasn't up-to-date on opening his advent calendar. Bad elf!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

White going up!

Much to this short person's frustration, you star painting from the top down. That's the part I cannot reach and where I need the help of strong men who aren't afraid to, you know, wield paint sprayers and rollers at a lofty 20-something feet height and can physically maneuver that beast of a ladder I bought for this purpose.
I max out at 12' which is a whopping 10' higher now than before we bought our little old house.
I don't do heights very well.
At least not on ladders.

Anyways, since we decided to get rid of the ugly dark trim, Sherwin Williams' "Antique White" colormatched to Ben Moore Exterior paint was the first color to go up.

It's a sweet, soft creamy white - almost beige looking against a bright decorator's white - but it goes on beautifully and will provide just the right amount of clean contrast between our two body colors. Trust me, I know.
I tried.
The first white I'd chosen was just too bright so I mixed my own personal 'right' kind of color which turned out to be a dead match for "Antique White."

Nice and creamy.

It even looked kind of cute with the pale blue-grey that was already on the house ... and for a teeny tiny moment I was torn between continuing with our planned color scheme and just keeping the blue grey. I could see it working with a sea-glass colored porch ceiling, for example.
Very beachy.
Then the sun came out and we went blind.
It was so bright, we felt like vampires skittering into the shelter of the shadows cast by the trees, hiding from the searing burn of the sunlight reflecting off the house.

That made the decision really easy: Oakmoss and Bosc Pear it is!

Monday, December 8, 2014


Slowly but surely we are getting closer to color photos! I know this is a rather slo-mo type of reveal but it was a slo-mo kind of project, and that's not even counting the time it took us to figure out the color scheme in the first place (read about it here, and here, and here ...oh, and here).

Unbelievable but true, it took us two whole years to really decide on our exterior paint project (so massive KUDOS to you if you can make it happen faster than that).

After two years of waffling over the 'right' color, squirreling money away, doing research first on professional painters and how much it would cost to have the house painted by someone else, then how to paint it ourselves to save money, and then, finally, buckling down and getting started FOR REAL, we and our little old house were finally (three weeks ago, to be honest) more than ready for


I know. How exciting!
Well, it was for us.
Seeing the white (for downstairs) and dark grey (for upstairs) primer go up finally made things real for us. We were actually going to get our house painted.
This year!
No more peeling paint.
No more sad dingy blue grey.

Even with just the white primer it looked SO MUCH better already.

I realize I'm an evil tease dragging this process out over so many short posts but this comes preeeeetty close to how 'fast' we progressed, and I knew we wouldn't get anything done during my parents' visit over Thanksgiving.
Bear with me - it'll be worth it (at least that's what we think - we loooove the end product)!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Side Job

Owning a house always comes with a learning curve. Depending on your budget for repairs and updates it is more or less steep.
In our case, and especially in case of huge project such as an exterior paint job, the learning curve was pretty daring and came with new experiences.

For example: siding repairs.

Termites, bad prep work committed by former owners, and weather had wrought quite a number on some of the boards of our wooden siding, and those had to be repaired one way or another.

I filed the paperwork for the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) to make sure all our siding repairs were legit and sanctioned by our Historic Preservation Commission, picked up a couple of boards of bevelled pine siding matching our own at Carolina Lumber (nicest people ever!), and set the husband up with a couple of videos  and articles on This Old House on how to repair wood siding.

Like this video for example.

We started with a very simple spot - no piecing, no funny monkey business, just plain replacement of one board.

Well, our first trial run cost us three boards in the end since prying the old boards - even the old, rotted, broken one - was harder than we thought and it looked, and before we knew it we'd cracked a second one and a third. Oy! They always make it look so easy on TV!

Fortunately, after that things started looking up (it's like calibrating your feet for a new car and a more touchy pair of brakes), and we replaced a few other spots with no problem at all.
It is rather straightforward process, after all: pry out or cut out broken piece, measure new piece in place, cut, nail, caulk seams. Done!

That being said, when the husband came to fix the siding on the upstairs addition (the area containing our dressing room and master bath) things got difficult again, mainly because a previous owner had used and patched with -three- different types of siding.

In order to make up for the discrepancies in board widths and the resulting gaps, we had to remove quite a few boards - more than we'd originally planned.

That required another trip to Carolina Lumber (not really a hardship at all - they are very close by and really nice and helpful, not to mention surprisingly affordable) and more siding boards. A small blow to our tight budget for our exterior job but no budget buster (unless we hit another crazy snag like this).

The husband spent an entire weekend trying to match things up, fitting boards, measuring, and cutting perched on the roof of our little downstairs (enclosed) porch.
Steep learning curve, I'm telling you! There were quite a few choice words directed at tools and planks, but in the end, he figured things out and made me a mighty proud wife.

Nailed it!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Prep Party Part II

Sad but true we needed two whole weekends - Saturday and Sunday - from Sun up to Sun down to get to the next step in our preparation for the exterior paint job.
Let's break it down again:

1. Wash
2. Scrape
3. Sand
4. Repair
5. Prime
6. Caulk
7. Paint

We only feathered out old patches of paint that wouldn't come loose on the first floor in high traffic areas. We decided early on that we would not try and go for a 'smooth as a bay's behind' look - our house was a 100 years old and we were proud of its marks that tell its story, and we wanted to enjoy the new look in this decade.
So no infra-red paint remover tool for us, no chemical strippers, no heat gun. Just pure elbow grease.
Even so we spent an entire weekend feathering paint and smoothing out the couple of boards that took the hit when we learned to pick the right pressure for the power washer.

 We did wear proper protective face masks to keep from breathing in harmful dust, and we covered the ground with tarps to contain the mess as much as possible.

 In the end we spent -three- whole weekends preparing the house to the point where we could prime. Hallelujah!

Here it is, moments before the paint sprayer dipped into the primer for the first time! We taped off the 'new' aluminium windows only because they are smaller, with narrower trim and as such more prone to over spray.

Other than that, it was "Fire at will!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Prep Party Part I

Nothing provides more motivation to "get'er done' than a visit from the parents.My parents hadn't visited us at our little old house in three years - health issues had thrown us a curve ball, and Germany -is- quite a bit away, and it's not a trip you take lightly, or on a weekend. Not if you don't own your own jet. Which we don't.

So, three years since their last time, and of course we wanted to show some progress in regard to all our grand home improvements plans.
And the biggest project we could possible force into a tight deadline?
Painting the exterior, of course!

We got a helping hand from my co-worker Mose who provided back-up and equipment to power wash our little old house. It helped remove some of the loose paint but really only aimed at washing off the grime and funk of decades. You have to be careful with the old siding since most commercial grade power washers are too strong and cause more damage than good.
You can literally rip your siding planks to shreds washing out the soft wood pulp between the grain. Ugh!

We gave the house a good scrubbing ending up incredibly filthy ourselves. Man! There's nothing that gets you wetter and dirtier than power washing anything. And don't you dare consider power washing yourself - takes the skin right off! Not a good thing!
Here's the husband scrubbing down the stairs. The poncho is really just for show - he was just as dirty and wet as me who skipped the protective gear!

Afterward we scraped.
And scraped.
And scraped.
There was quite a bit of loose paint that had to be removed, carefully, catching and discarding it in bags to contain any possible lead.

More scraping along the front elevation of our little old house. The front, facing mostly north, wasn't bad at all. Here the peeling paint was minimal, really, compared to the rest of the house and especially the western elevation. That one was a -real- mess!
At the front most of the failing paint was along the window frames due to ancient paint build-up.


Little Man was a great big helper, and really enjoyed getting to hang out on the roof of the porch -with- permission from the parental units.
We even ate lunch picnic style out here because the weather was fantabulous and the view is really nice.

After lunch there was more scraping.
And more scraping.
And some more after that.
There was a lot of peeling paint caused mostly where some bright mind had decided to caulk the underside of the siding. That inhibits an old house's natural ability (and need) to breathe, and in the end the moisture that collects there causes the paint to fail. Geee, they could have saved so much money on caulk and time -and- gotten a longer lasting paint job out of it, but no.

We spent a lot of time prying old caulk out of every nook and cranny on the underside of the siding our house. As one contractor once explained to me: " Imagine pushing your house underneath a waterfall. That's how you want to caulk'em."

And caulk we did ... two weekends later!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Quicky In The Bathroom

Upstairs we have two full bathrooms: our hall bathroom and the newly added master bathroom. Call it a bad habit that's hard to break but the husband hardly ever uses the master bathroom because he is so used to using the hall bathroom from when we moved in that he's not been able to break that habit for good. Means, I get the master bathroom, claw footed tub and all, all to myself!

I don't mind sharing with the husband at all, and all three of us did share one bathroom before we bought our little old house, but still ... it's nice not having to share with stinky, messy boys ;)

They also keep their boy bathroom clean-ish and so I don't have much reason to go in there, except for the occasional pilfering of toilet paper or looking for medication for Little Man.

That's how I discovered that one of my men had fallen victim to their Herculean strength and broken one of the hinges of the medicine cabinet. Well, actually it was the lopsided mirror that gave it away.

While I went shopping for a replacement, the husband tore it out of its wall cubby. That's when things got interesting in several ways

- drywall was damaged; what was supposed to be a simple switcheroo became much more involved - as usual, really
- the cabinet was shaped like a ... what's the word? tray ceiling starting large with the frame, stepping down a size and getting smaller, and then - surprise, surprise - taking the size down another step - the one we didn't measure until it was too late.
- Nobody seems to sell 'Dutch Boy' paint around here any more and I had to find a match or repaint the entire bathroom

Here's the hole in the wall in all its glory.
There was a moment's temptation to just by a large wall mirror, cover the hole, and call it a day.
Then I remembered the scathing hate we feel for all those crazy dumb quick fixes we unearth (me and my neighbours) throughout our neighbourhood - from caulk and duct tape in odd places to toothpicks and cardboard in even worse spots) and decided to put on my big girl pants and man up.

Thank God Athena was around to keep me on target! Here she is correcting my camera angle!

Some where along the way I forgot to keep taking pictures of the process. It was pretty straightforward though, no matter how tedious and aggravating I find drywall repairs. That dust gets everywhere and good repairs require a slow, careful layering of dry wall mud - there are only so many bumps and irregularities you can sand out, so it pays to take it slow.

Anyways, while the drywall repairs dried, I went off in search of a color match to the existing paint. I 'thought' I'd found it - the paint chip was spot on! in every light - but when I returned home with my can of paint, it because immediately obvious that the paint -in- the can was way too light.

Now what?

Well, I have an entire stash of testers in various shades of blue, so I sat down and started mixing my own 'match' - no kidding.
And the best of it? It worked!
Spot on!

All fixed!
No more hole in the wall and a nice clean place to put medications and bathroom stuff with a functioning door to boot!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ding-dong - Dining room done!

I know it's not a lot but staining and polying the table, painting the chairs, and adding shades to the chandelier did give our dining room look a subtle shift to ... well, more craftsman, I want to say, but that's not really true. It's not one of those UH-MAY-ZING blog make-overs. No magazine shoot here either. Maybe that makes it more real?

At the end of the day it looks cozier now which what with the temperatures dropping and Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner feels just right.

Sometime these days I'll get started on hanging picture rails and finalizing mural plans. Yes, mural. I want to handpaint a frieze mural. I know I'm crazy.
In any case it will have to wait until the New Year. Right now we're already running around like chicken with their heads cut off. No need to speed up - it's a wild enough ride already!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dining room Chandelier Make-Over

 The Saga of the refreshing of the dining room look here at the little old house continues with an excursion into lofty heights. Yes, even the chandelier did not get away!

Here is what our dining room looked liked right at the beginning, just 3 years ago. So far we haven't changed much. We added a larger version of our old pedestal table that is more in proportion and keeping with the size of the room than the one we moved in with.
Now the larger dining room table got a mini make over and a new paint scheme.

Now the chandelier. This was an incredible inexpensive find at the Habijax store. Less than $10 for the chandelier, a bit of spray paint to turn the meh glossy brass into oil rubbed Bronze, and those nifty capiz whatchamacallits - done!

Now though I was craving a bit of texture. Seagrass or maybe burlap or something similar.

I did come across a good deal on six burlap mini shades on Amazon, and pulled the trigger!Here they are nicely arranged in a box.

They simply clip onto the light bulb which requires a bit of fine-tuning as you can see since the chandelier comes with chandelier bulbs, and those just aren't straight. You need to rotate the shades slightly, one by one, to account for the twist in the bulb, until they sit straight. Not all cattywampus like in this photo.

The shades dim the light just so to make it look cozy and warm at night while still looking light and airy during the day. I really really like the addition of the shades, even if it means that for some crafts I need to break out the big daylight craft lamp.

I also added a burlap cord cover to our chandelier. It's growing on me although I'm still not quite sold on it. Ergo, the lack of photo evidence. We shall see ....

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dapper Dining

I promised projects and posts and pictures, and you shall have all three!

So, sometime in the last year or so I got bit by the Arts & Crafts bug. No, not the DIY kind of bug but the Craftsman style design movement of the 1900s. The Arts and Crafts movement was an international design movement that flourished between 1880 and 1910, especially in the second half of that period, continuing its influence until the 1930s. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and often applied medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. Colors were earthy, craftsmanship impeccable, decorating non-frilly and simple. To me it is best summed up as "Hobbit House Style." If you consider Bilbo Baggins' cozy abode as seen in the movies "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" the perfect home, you might be a candidate for the Arts & Crafts style.

Our house was built in 1914, toward the tail end of the Arts & Crafts movement, and while it's not a stereotypical example of arts & crafts architecture, it does feature some elements that hint at it like dominant brackets bearing the roof, exposed rafter tails, and more. And I really really love Bilbo Baggins' home. So much that it suckered me right into the Arts & Crafts design boards on Pinterest. While I'm not willing to go back and strip all of the freshly painted white trim work inside my little old house, I have slowly begun to add Arts & Crafts touches to our house. More on that in days to come!

A simple and much quicker Arts & Crafts update to our beloved dining room was to refresh our dining room set. Because, you know, I didn't have any other, more pressing projects lined up four weeks before my parents' visit.

Here is our dining room set pictured with two of the available furry supervisors: Athena, the cat, and Roomba, our foster pup. Everybody else didn't make it into the shot - too slow! The photo isn't great - the table isn't bright orange, I swear! - but you have seen this table and chair set before. It's a plain honey oak color - nothing to write home about.

In order to tie everything together I decided on a two-tone color scheme for the table with the pedestal in white and a stained top. A quick sanding and priming ensured the paint would stick and stand up to occasional misplaced kicks under the table.
Here, another supervisor joins the crowd - Turtle, the tortoise kitten. She came to us as a foster kitten through the local animal shelter as a two week old bottle baby, and while she eats for two, she has a hard time growing. She just now, after four months, finally made it past the two pound mark required for surgery (she needs to be spayed before she can go out for adoption). She's stinking cute but somewhat weird. She likes to watch and observe a lot, teeny head cocked a bit sideways, looking slightly bewildered.

My furry supervisors got bored after a while and wandered off to take a nap giving me free reign and a paw- and furless working environment. That was really essential for staining the top. I went with General Finished Gel Stain in Candlelit (get it here, for example) after reading plenty of sites and reviews on the ease of using it on other typical blonde honey oak cabinets. Most seem to use Java but I didn't want to go that dark.

It's nowhere near as red as it appears here. It's a warm, almost mahogany type of brown, very rich and 'glowy.' I loved working with the gel stain which went on smoothly and evenly without the need for wood conditioners, massive sanding, and more, like with usual wood stains.I had bought a quart of General Finishes Poly in Satin to seal the top, and working with that was just as easy. Three coats and the top is super silky smooth, and looks terrific!

After finishing the table I debated what to do with the chairs. Two-tone looks for them? Stain only? Both, Big Man and Little Man, vetoed these and suggested black chairs.
I wasn't 100% sold on the idea but forged ahead, and what can I say? My men were right - The black chairs work great with the two tone table!

After painting the chairs black, I sanded the edges a bit for an aged look and used the gel stain as a glaze - lovely!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Long Time No See

Wow ... that's been quite a ....break. Yes, break. Let's call it that. No, we didn't fall off the face of the earth but somehow life got crazy busy and pushed what little DIY spirit we had going on earlier this year to the back burner. Waaaay back.
Somehow it was easier to update family and friends via phone on project progress, if there was any, and for some inexplicable reason I just didn't have the time or energy to write up blog posts and take pictures.
Life simply got too busy.
Not in a bad way, mind you.
We are still happy and healthy and love living in our little old house and our wonderful, special histpric neighborhood.
We spent some time this summer exploring Washington, DC, tried Ueber and Airbnb (like the fearless, ferocious hipsters we are ... not), and simply had a rocking and rolling good time.
Little Man started 5th grade and heralded in his last year at our favorite and best-ever Elementary School in Jacksonville. I'm neither looking forward to nor am I ready to start choosing a middle school for Little Man just yet. He's thriving though, and there is simply no stopping him.
Chickem, cats, dogs, bees - all are still around, and a daily source of entertainment.

Hmm, whatelse?

Oh yes, there are projects!
And pictures!
And blog posts, so check back in tomorrow morning.