Monday, January 30, 2017

Incremental Progress or Look at My New Cool Bench!

There has been much incremental progress all over the house. We have pulled up the remaining carpet, in the master bedroom and hallway, and now have beautiful ambered oak floors through most of the living areas.  The remaining areas have tile (the bathrooms), carpet over plywood (dining room), or vinyl (the kitchen and the laundry room).  Other than pulling up the carpet, tack strips and staples, the only thing we've done to the oak floors is wipe them down with a wet paper towel and they gleam!

I went about cleaning the cabinets and drawers in the hall bathroom. They have been well used over the years and the finish is quite worn in areas. The cabinets in the bathroom are made of the same 3/4 inch pecan plywood as the kitchen cabinets with the same ambered finish. What I learned through the cleaning is that the varnish is readily removed, meaning we can likely refinish the kitchen cabinets without damaging the wood. In the bathroom I added new Amerock knobs that mimic the knobs that were original to the house.  
Yes, this bathroom will be completely remodeled before the year is out, but in the meantime it's nice to have it spruced up a bit for the cost of a few knobs and some elbow grease.
The most transformative addition to our home this week is my new floating bench. Designed to be an extension of the hearth in the living room, it elongates and emphasizes the horizontal lines.  Handcrafted by Daniel Moulder of Moulder and Craft in Portland, Oregon, it is made from solid cherry and is absolutely gorgeous.

You'll notice that I haven't posted any pictures of the complete living room.  We have yet to paint it.  Once it's painted the room will be complete and I'll post before and after pictures!    

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Touch Points, Door Chimes and Elbow Grease

One of the things that gets both Scott and I going are touch points. You know, the things you touch or see in the house that either please you or make you write a list of things to get done.

One of ours is light switches. When we moved into our condo in Geneva, IL one of the first things we did was switch out all the old switchplate and outlet covers to make them all match. We had planned to do the same thing at 3301, but when your house has 85 percent original ivory ribbed Sierra Electric switchplate and outlet covers you have a little research to do. I found three lots of Sierra Electric covers on eBay that match the originals in the house and was able to purchase them for just over two dollars a piece. I now have inventory of outlet covers and single, double and triple gang switchplate covers - enough for what we need now and when we remodel the bathrooms, reconfigure the kitchen and whatever else might hit our fancy.

I had received most of my new switchplates and outlet covers, so on our snow day a couple weeks ago I had plenty to do. Most of the original switchplates and outlet covers from the bedrooms, hallway, living room, dining room, etc. came down and were thoroughly cleaned and detailed. I also cleaned all the switches, a tedious but strangely satisfying job. The original switchplates and outlet covers were all reinstalled along with my new vintage ones, where previously a collection of different style and color switchplates and covers had been. I'm not saying I've replaced everything, but there is definitely more continuity for those touchpoints. Cross one minor annoyance off the list!  

On to the next job, woodwork in the entryway! The main entry is two 36 inch solid wood doors. The front (outside) of the doors is painted black, something that will change this spring when the weather allows for the doors to be off the hinges for a while. The back of the doors is stained to match the rest of the woodwork in the house. They appear to be continuous grain and were a bit worn and in need of some love. Out comes the Murphy's Oil Soap and some warm water, some generous cleaning and our all-time favorite Liquid Gold to renew the wood and hide 52 years of nicks and scratches.  The surrounding woodwork and the coat closet door received the same love and overall the effect is quite lovely.

One of the things that was bugging me was the light in the entryway. It was dingy, not really my taste and just didn't make me happy. I had found the perfect fixture, right design, color, appropriate to the period, super lovely and $400. Watching the cash flying from our wallets at an alarming rate these days, I hadn't pulled the trigger on the purchase. I asked Scott if he could figure out how to take the fixture down. Two minutes later it was sitting on the kitchen counter. We vacuumed the part of the fixture still attached to the ceiling and I took about 15 minutes at the sink showing the old fixture some love and a good bath. While still not exactly my taste, the fixture is original to the house, works and quite frankly looks great.

Last but not least, I finally tackled the doorbell.  This recessed area has a handmade wood grate over it that I hadn't yet been able to remove.  I knew there was a vintage doorbell in there and had narrowed down the manufacturer, but hadn't been able to see it up close.  So after cleaning the other woodwork in the entryway, it was time to dig into the doorbell. The grate, it turns out, was a press fit into the recessed area and once removed revealed my coveted doorbell - a working vintage Miami-Carey Innsbruck model duo-tone doorchime!

After taking appropriate photos, I set about the task of cleaning the woodwork around the alcove and the grate. The grate required a little bit of repair, a small piece from one of the press fittings had broken off.  A bit of wood glue and we were ready to put it all back together!  


It's amazing how the wood trim and the grate came alive with just a little bit of love and some elbow grease. Between the switchplates, outlet covers, doors, woodwork and my cool doorbell, not a bad snow day!

P. S. While I was puttering in the house working on touchpoints, Scott was outside shoveling 7 to 13 inches of heavy snow off our fairly large driveway. My wins in the house that day didn't seem to impress him as much as they did me.  I wonder why?

Monday, January 23, 2017

How to Arrange a Living Room in 30 (not so easy) Steps!

Do you remember those little plastic tile games you used to get as a kid? Maybe you won them at a carnival in grade school or perhaps they were in the basket of toys at grandma and grandpas house. They were a few inches square with room for twenty five numbered tiles, but there were only twenty four tiles. You moved them around to try to put them in order, but ultimately just took it apart and put it back together. Well, that's what it's been like around here the last couple of weeks.

In my wisdom, I decided we should host a birthday party for my Dad's eightieth birthday. Only six weeks from when we moved in this was likely not the brightest idea, but I wanted to do it and so Scott committed to it as well. (By the way, if I haven't said it yet he's a really great husband!) There were multiple things I wanted to have finished before the party, not the least of which was getting the boxes of media (nine cd/DVD boxes and four boxes of record albums) out of the living room and setting up the guest room so my brother would have a place to stay. So our party puzzle went something like this: 
  1. Order new blinds for the garage window
  2. Install new blinds in the garage (they arrived in four days...from China)
  3. Clear the garage floor including recycling runs and consolidating items on storage pallets
  4. Hang bikes on garage walls and set up shelving for bike gear
  5. Move love seat from Scott's office in the front bedroom (the love seat was much too large) to the garage. You see where this is going, right?
  6. Move the file cabinets out of the office closet and install secretary on the desk
  7. Hang pictures in the office (of course)
  8. Move cd/DVD boxes from living room into the office closet
  9. Put albums from living room on the shelves in the office closet
  10. Move small ottoman from living room into office. You'd think at this point we were done...but wait, there's more!
  11. Install new bulbs in the living room cornice fixtures
  12. Paint the master bedroom ceiling and closet
  13. Paint the master bedroom (including patching a large hole from an old alarm system, ask Scott about DAP Presto Patch - brilliant!)
  14. Rip out the master bedroom carpet revealing more glorious hardwood floors (thank you, again, son Scott!)
  15. Set up the master bedroom (can I just say, it's so nice to sleep in our own bed again)
  16. Hang pictures in the master bedroom (yes, it's a separate item)
  17. Completely rearrange and put down Flor carpet tiles in the guest bedroom
  18. Hang pictures in the guest room (again, really)
  19. Again with the DAP Presto Patch, this time in the entryway coat closet
  20. Paint the entryway coat closet
  21. Clean the paneling in the living room next to the fireplace (Murphy's Oil Soap and water, and a generous wipe down with Liquid Gold does wonders)
  22. Install Halsey hanging system in the ceiling above the paneling (someone told me never put holes in paneling)
  23. Hang the large framed painting by Farooq Hassan in the living room on the paneled wall
  24. Rip out the carpet in the hallway and on the living room stairs, again with the glorious hardwoods
  25. Remove about a kagillion staples from the floors and living room stairs

All this followed by a recycling run to Far West Fibers with the Mini full - bonnet to boot. And another run, this one in son Scott's pickup, with the old range, carpet and pad and various and sundry wood scraps and attic "found items", to the ECR (Environmentally Conscious Recycling center in NE Portland). Maybe it was only twenty five steps, but I didn't include standard clean up.

Dad's birthday party was this past Sunday (it was also daughter Jeanette's birthday - number 31) and it was really great to host the family.  I cooked in my new circa 1983 range, we entertained in the living room and everyone oohed and ahhed over the floors. We had dinner in the dining room and too much cake from Baker and Spice in Hillsdale!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Week of Dust...or What is Going On in the Crawlspace?

The crawlspace access door is located in the master bedroom closet.  It's one of the reasons why we didn't set up the master bedroom when we moved in. Rather Scott, all 6 foot 2 inches of him, and I have been sleeping in the corner bedroom on a full size (who named it that?) bed. While we like being close, we have become rather spoiled over the last twelve and a half years sleeping on the "monster truck" bed.

In addition to having all kinds of folks climbing down to the crawlspace on contractor day shortly after we moved in, we recently had a contractor in to clean the entire crawlspace out (yucky insulation, old vapor barrier and such) and install a new vapor barrier. While they were here, four young men for over eight hours, they found multiple rodent carcasses, a bit of water (nothing to be worried about we're told) and "Whoops! There's a live one!" Yes we have a guest under the house. A rat named Ben. Why Ben, I have no idea.

Scott was home while all this commotion was going on and heard the workers surprise at finding Ben. He found it rather humorous. What wasn't so funny was the amount of dust that was kicked up in the house by the crawlspace cleaning. We are talking serious dust all over the house.

And then to make dust matters worse, but ventilation and breathing hopefully better, the furnace ductwork cleaning crew arrived the next day. I suppose if you have to clean the house top to bottom it's better to only have to do it once. Honestly though, I do think I'm breathing better and attribute that to both the crawlspace and vent cleaning.

The ductwork cleaning truck with its six "vacuum" bags

We have hired a contractor, recommended by the crawlspace guys, to take care of sealing obvious rodent access holes in the crawlspace and to set bait. Due to the freaky weather in Portland they have had to cancel on us twice - Ben gets a temporary reprieve. In a different situation I might want to fire the contractor, but when you consider that we haven't received our mail, newspapers or deliveries in about a week due to the weather I think we'll cut the contractor a break.

By the way, the lead crawlspace guy that was here, a certified crawlspace expert (who knew?), told us the the foundation is in excellent shape and that this is a really great, sturdy home. He did recommend fixing one pier in the middle of the house sort of under the living room that was all catty wompus (a technical term), which we had them do. He showed us pictures, but hasn't sent them to us yet.  When he does I'll add them to this post.

So Tired...of Cooking in the Microwave!

Since we moved to 3301 we have been either cooking frozen food in the microwave or eating out. Why would we do that? Well...

Original range in Harvest Gold

Yep, that's the original range, drop-in style, or so we thought. But more on that later.  If you look closely at the picture you'll notice that the knobs for the burners on top are missing - the former owner's way of letting us know that the top burners don't work and don't even try it!

The oven on the other hand did work, so early in our residency I decided to cook a frozen pizza.  I turned on the oven and about five minutes later thought, "I should look in the oven." And good thing I did. Inside the oven was a broiler pan topped with a large plastic cutting board that had just started to melt - good grief! On with the pot holders and onto the garage floor with my broiler pan/cutting board cake. We did get our pizza that night, but not without enduring the "love" from hubby Scott. Only microwaved food after that.  Until...

Glorious new to us range!
Super-clean inside and out!
I found this gorgeous, practically never been used, circa early 1980s Whirlpool drop-in range on Craigslist in Vancouver and with a bit of help from the Scotts (hubby and son) we got it home and in the garage just a day or two before ice and snow storms brought Portland to its knees.
This past Sunday son-Scott made his way over to our house to install the range. We won't go into the whole trucks and snow thing, but after a single trip to Home Depot we were able to install the range - almost. When we removed the old range we realized it wasn't a drop-in at all, but rather a slide in disguised as a drop-in. This posed several issues, not the least of which was, umm, how do you support the range from the bottom? Hence the trip to Home Depot. And it turns out that, while I was able to find the user manual and installation instructions for the range, actual specs for 1980s era appliances are hard to come by. Which brings us to the second issue, the opening for the old range is bigger than the new range. For now the range is sitting in the opening and I found a company that specializes in custom trim kits for built-in appliances called Micro-trim. They are working on the design now.
Why choose a 1980s range instead of buying a brand spanking new one, you might ask. Well, the kitchen has a limited life span, probably two years before we reconfigure it (note, I didn't say remodel). The new layout will likely remove the peninsula where the range currently sits, so then it would be bye-bye new range and the ~$1500 or more it would cost. And besides, with the white refrigerator and dishwasher, the new range just looks like it belongs. And bottom works!
New range in its new home
Looks pretty good, right?  The kitchen is mostly done for a while. There is still some elbow grease that needs to be applied. The kitchen cabinets, while clean on the inside, need some love and a good cleaning on the outside and we're going to remove the remaining white paper covering the original wallpaper (the orange, gold and brown floral you see on the sofit). The wallpaper is vinyl and in remarkable condition, so we're going live with it for now.
You might ask, what is Scott's (hubby's) favorite part of having a working range? The glorious meals that Beth will cook in her petticoats and pearls? The ability to cook Campbell's tomato soup whenever he wants?  Actually, Scott's favorite part is...a place to hang the kitchen towels, seriously!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Santa Brings the Retro Goods!

Scott and I decided, with the new house and the updates it needed, we wouldn't do a big Christmas exchange this year.  Of course, that didn't stop Mrs. Santa from finding some little items in her NOS stash for Santa to put under the tree.  Here are some of the cool retro finds left there for Scott.

The new Kit Cat Klock was a hit and
makes Scott smile every time he looks
at it.  
Scott on Christmas Morning
Original NOS Medallion Home Doorbell
 It lights up!
After Christmas, Mrs. Santa was poking around on eBay and found a Medallion Home door viewer which she quickly picked up for the front door. Why would she do that? Well, before we took possession of 3301 Mrs. Santa was having way to much fun with the whole "find the cool retro stuff and get it for the house", thing. One of her purchases was an atomic star escutcheon in satin bronze for the very foreboding solid double door entryway.      

As it turns out, the beautiful star is much to big for the door, the lockset being very close to the edge. So she was looking for something else for the door and voila!

Yes, we are geeking out a bit, but it's fun!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Contractors and Our First Big Purchase

Happy New Year!  Relaxing in Astoria, Oregon for the New Year weekend provided some much needed down time for both Scott and I. Sunday, in particular, was a get comfy in your favorite chair, snuggle under the throw with your favorite slippers on and surf the web on your iPad kind of day. We ventured out only to buy fixings for tater tot casserole and didn't turn on the tv until evening when we decided to watch a movie. We needed that! So today I'll catch you up on some things that didn't get written over the course of the last three weeks.

The Monday after we moved in (among all the boxes) we had eleven contractors scheduled to provide bids for work including a new furnace, new electrical panel, new water heater and water supply lines, chimney sweep and repair, crawl space, and bathroom renovations. It was a long day with contractors overlapping, no shows and really drawn out appointments. We received three bids for crawlspace work, had one of the chimneys swept and received a bid for rebuilding the chimney on the roof, one bid for electrical work and two bids on the furnace. The bathroom renovation bid came in a week late and way high.

I contacted two more plumbers, another HVAC contractor, a chimney mason and two more renovators. It's strange to me how you can tell contractors the exact same thing and they will quote completely different things. I'm not sure if they think they know better, completely interpret your needs differently or just want to sell what they want to sell. It makes comparing bids very confusing, requiring clarification and requotes, and generally slows things down.

Silly Beth, I thought we would be well into design work on the bathrooms and we haven't even selected a contractor. I thought the plumbing and electrical work would be done by now and we're still looking at plumbing quotes and need to get a couple more electrical quotes. Sheesh.

We have actually made our first big purchase. On Friday, December 30th our new Amana 96% furnace with electronic ignition was installed, complete with a/c coils so the existing a/c unit works - an expense we can put off for a while. The new furnace is eligible for both federal and state credits and state rebates. Our new Nest thermostat (so cool with the copper ring) is also eligible for a $50 state rebate. We need to remember to get the paperwork in order to take advantage of these things - with all the money going out the door, having some come back in is really nice!

By the way, I will be compiling a list of the contractors we use with their contact information. Located in a tab at the top of the blog, it will be a handy reference for us and may be of use to someone out there.

Out with the old furnace!
In with the new furnace!