27 September, 2011

Phase 1 of the Bathroom Restoration -- Done!

Ted's dad was over recently to help with the finishing touches on the bathroom restoration. We are not doing anything with the old cast iron tub at this time, except to clean it. We may, in the future, convert it to a walk in shower as Mom gets older, or we may just add more support bars, we're not sure yet. Whatever we do, that will be phase 2.

This is the bathroom cabinet that was under six coats of thick, enamel paint when we moved in. It took me an embarrassingly long time to strip all the paint off because I also decided to strip the paint from the walls as well. Yes, you read that right. We stripped the walls down to the original plaster as much as we could. Old plaster walls are much more sound-insulating than drywall, and easier to break into and repair, too. So we're making an effort to keep everything original when we can. The crazy thing? The bottommost coat of paint was THE EXACT SAME SHADE as the color we selected to paint the room. How weird is that?

The bathroom is tiny, so is kinda hard to photograph.

The light fixtures were original, but rather plain. So I found these vintage 1920s fixtures on eBay, and saved the ones we removed to place elsewhere, maybe in the basement. Ted rewired these for safety and installed them.

The sink we inherited with the house was a 1970s monstrosity, not worth saving because damp and rot got to it from behind. We found this vintage-inspired one online.

The vintage-inspired faucet set.

And my very favorite bit! The pillbox toilet, a perfect centerpiece in a 1920s bathroom.

What you don't see in these pics is all the work Ted did behind the walls, replacing the old cloth wire, rerouting the plumbing, and replastering the wall after he broke into it -- yeah, he went all old school on that last bit, researching how old plaster walls were constructed and building the three layers up himself. Now that he's got it down to a science, I'll photograph the process as he makes a repair in the tenant unit later this month and post it here. What he did discover is that there were very few good tutorials on the process, so we hope to encourage people to consider replastering as an alternative instead of tearing out and dry walling. We still have some work we'd like to do here, for example, Ted needs to cut some new decorative trim pieces to replace the ones we couldn't salvage, and I'm working on a new stained glass window for the door, which currently sports plain privacy glass. I'm working on a pattern to match the vintage stained glass in the living room, carrying the theme through the house. Maybe by next spring I'll have that done.

The Guest Room -- Done! (Sorta)

This was my least-favorite room of the house. It is the guest room off the kitchen, which back in the day may have been the maid's room. Even apartment-dwelling families in Chicago and Evanston sometimes had maids, so I've been told, and the bedroom by the kitchen was often set aside for them.

When we moved in, the trim was all painted blue. Baby blue. The walls were three different shades of yellow. It dawned on me that, after three years, I still hadn't found the time to strip off the paint on the trim, and with all the other projects backing up, probably wasn't going to get to it anytime soon. So, I bit the bullet and bought a gallon of white paint. If I have to strip off six layers of paint from the trim in the future, what's one more? I consider it a temporary solution, but one which allows me to have guests stay with us without being embarrassed where I put them.

The antique bed is one I found at an estate sale, as is the quilt, the doily is one my great grandmother made, and the table I found in an alley! The cat I got in Guatemala when we took my mom there to climb pyramids a few years ago. The room has become a great place to take an afternoon nap.

The Porch -- Done!

Now that phase 1 of the bathroom restoration is done, we were able to reclaim the back porch, which had been sort of a staging area for the project, the place where we stored the new sink and toilet for the last year until we were able to replace the old cloth wire and replumb the lines in the bathroom. But, it's done. There's room for a desk out here now, and a few comfy chairs. It's turned into a fair-weather office, where I can work on client projects and overlook the garden. Much of the artwork on the walls has been done by family members.

This perspective shows the stairs leading up to the tenant unit, as well as the stairs to the back door. The pink doll house is the one my dad made when I was a little girl.

All in all, the porch has turned into quite the cozy spot, a perfect place for a cup of coffee with the morning paper.

23 September, 2011

Looking to Purchase a VW Vanagon / Westfalia

We've decided to get a VW camper van! Like we need another restoration project, right? But now that the ol' brick garage has nearly been cleared of the previous owners' possessions, we have the room  to store and work on one.

We started the vehicle search today. Unfortunately, this one that Ted is sitting in has been sold. So if you have a water-cooled camper from 1985 and up--more or less in the Chicago area--let us know. We're willing to get one that needs engine work, as long as the body is in good to great shape.

20 September, 2011

Bathroom Preview

It has been a sad year for blogging, but now that the busy summer is winding down to a close, I should have more time to update you all on some of our projects. Here's a sneak peek at what we've done to the bathroom:

I'll be posting more pictures of the transformation shortly, but was so excited to have a working toilet and a door that closes (actually, a door, period) that I couldn't wait.

01 July, 2011

I think I found the color combination I want to use for the portico. Columns in that creamy color, with trim in the dusky red and blue.

05 June, 2011

Where The Quilts??

It's been brought to my attention that I haven't posted anything since September, last year, about my quilting. Sorry. I've been wrapped up in a special quilting project. I don't have but a few pictures of what I'm working on but here's a teaser. I hope to have pictures soon of the completed top. The quilt has a Native American theme. It's machine applique and pieced. I've been having such a great time, putting this one together, that I'm actually making two at the same time. Which is why it's taking so long. I knew if I finished one completely before starting another I would never do a second. One quilt is for my brother-in-law who painted my late husband's portrait for us. I had to do something for him in return. It should fit well in their family room that has some Native American decor. The second quilt is for me although it's too big to hang on a wall and doesn't fit the decor in my bedroom I had to make one.

This in one of 9 blocks in one of the quilts, it measures 22" X 22". Finished quilt should be 83" X 83." Not quite a twin and larger than a lap.

I hope this makes up for not posting any quilty news. I'll try to be better in the future.

Boxhouse Mom

19 February, 2011

Deck Repair Fail at the Ol' Rental Unit

I've been sitting on these pictures for a while, because frankly, I've been a little embarrassed about the whole thing. But a few months have passed, so I can laugh about it now. Kinda.

It started with the previous tenants. They were good guys, this was just one of those things. Ashes from their grill spilled onto the deck, burning a hole in it. (This is why the city of Chicago forbids such grills on wood decks, although everyone does it anyway.) The guys fessed up and agreed to pay for the damages.

Although we've never done a deck repair before, it didn't look like it would be that big a deal. Certainly not worth hiring a contractor for. Just pop out the old boards and nail the new ones in place.

First board off, no problem.

Second board off, just as quickly and cleanly. Both were taken down to the dumpster, broken down, and tossed in.

New boards were put in place.

So did you catch it? Did you see where we went wrong and somehow completely failed to notice it, even though I'm snapping away with the camera?

Yes. We took out the wrong board. I wish you could see the look on Ted's face at this point when we realize it, but our light was fading fast and I didn't use the flash.

In our defense, I'd like to say we were overtired. Tenant transition is always a hectic time, and between that and our day jobs we hadn't slept much the couple days before. But still, really. What kind of home improvement aficionados are we?

We couldn't even go downstairs and get the old, undamaged board, because we had already broken it down. Back to Home Depot we went, and eventually sorted it all out. And it looks great.

Replacing deck boards really is very easy. But I can understand now why people will write on their bodies in Sharpie marker which body part is to be operated on before going into surgery. You just never know.

Electrical Fire Hazard -- The Unexpected Discovery of Old Wire

The electrical breaker boxes for our house were updated in 1973, according to a receipt we found in the basement. Conduit to power extra outlets / light bulbs was strung along the basement ceiling at the same time. While the boxes were professionally installed, it looks like the previous owners added the conduit themselves. (It looks like a hack job and wasn't on the receipt.)

We're considering upgrading the service and having the basement rewired. So we peeked into some of the connecting boxes and were horrified at what we discovered. Our best guess is that the electrician left behind a pile of old cloth wire that was removed during the breaker boxes upgrade, and the previous owners decided to reuse it in new connector boxes. That's 1920s wire going through 1970s  boxes.

Old cloth-wrapped wire going through sharp-edged conduit.

Old, uncapped wire, held together only with old tape.

Oh, yeah, we're going to have to remediate this sooner rather than later.

Basement Decluttering

I never thought I'd see the day, but Ted has decided he can finally part with all of his physics and astronomy homework from college. (He was a double major.) I've helped him move those big, heavy boxes of paper three times in the last nine years.

Hello, extra storage space!

01 January, 2011

Rabbit, rabbit!