Friday, July 26, 2019

Floodwater doors, ‘60s wallpaper and changes in priorities

When Beth and I moved into the Retro Ranch in December 2016, there was so much to do to restore this lovely home that we had to set priorities on what needed to be addressed and when, not to mention, what we could afford. There were infrastructure projects such as the furnace, electrical systemschimney workand plumbing.  The exterior projects of tree careremoval of shrubs, bushes and trees long past their prime and, of course, painting. (Did we forget to mention rocks?) We enhanced the living spaces by paintingnew door handles and locks, closet systemsand other countless touch points. Some projects overlapped both cosmetic and infrastructure: the bathroom renovation, the laundry/half bath project, the new garage door and on and on. The point of rehashing the various projects is to note that some things we wanted to do were so far down on the priority list they didn’t even make the radar two years ago.

For our long time reader (you know who you are) or for those interested enough to read the early blogs, the very first “project” we did in the Retro Ranch was to pull up the wall to wall carpeting that was both long worn out and was covering beautiful red oak floors. Hardwood floors fell out of style in the late 60s and early 70s so many beautiful floors were covered in carpet. To install the wall to wall carpet in houses with hardwood floors, unfortunately, meant that for doors to swing freely over the carpet, shortening the doors was required. So like a teenage boy’s pants during his growth spurt, we now had beautiful mahogany doors (bedrooms, closets, etc.) that were obviously too short. 

While this was something that bothered us it was low on the priority list. To replace all of the doors would be expensive but finding the “right” doors (ones that fit the house) would be even more challenging. Enter our friend and wood artisan extraordinaire – Daniel Moulder of Moulder and Craft. Daniel looked at the solution as a way to make the Ranch even more appealing; why not add decorative extensions to the bottom of the doors? So with a maple trim strip and mahogany extensions, Daniel was able to make “floodwater doors” into a unique, decorative accent throughout the house. They match the baseboard trim height and look like they have always (should have always) been part of the house. What an amazing idea and craftsman!

There was one more thing to complete the living area and bedroom wing of the house, and that was replacing the wallpaper in the halls. While the current wallpaper was in surprisingly good shape considering its age, it was very tired and actually a bit musty. Beth has been looking at wallpaper patterns almost since we moved into the Ranch. Did we want something that made a statement? A fun retro print? Something that accented the other colors and design elements? There were many online viewings and numerous samples ordered for review. Visitors to the house were asked their opinions and even more samples ordered.

I have wallpapered before and was planning to tackle this project. However, after seeing the price of the materials and knowing how my eye can pick a job apart, if done poorly, we decided to find a pro. We received a referral, and after Michael (the wallpaper guy) sized up the job (and Beth had decided, finally, which wallpaper would best accent the entry and hallway, while giving a nod to the heritage of the Ranch) we placed our wallpaper order and scheduled the project. Several areas needed to be patched so Ted tDwG was able to do those repairs/patches as a part of his work in the kitchen dining room project - the last reminder of a long disabled alarm system now just a memory. NWHC pulled down all of the trim from the closet door, floor molding and doorbell box.

Michael stripped the old paper off and prepped the walls and completed hanging the new paper in just two days. Given the fight the old wallpaper put up, we were happy we decided to have Michael take on that work. The NWHC crew reinstalled all of the trim and moldings several days later. They even used a run of our new, custom made moldings in the hall as the original strip had 55 year of wear and tear on it.

What a difference these two projects haves made in the Ranch. Everything just feels finished in the living areas. Daniel said the wallpaper reminds him of birch trees. That makes me smile as I walk through our birch grove from the bedrooms through the dining room and into the kitchen, knowing that we are nearly done with the interior restorations of the Ranch.

What will we do with our spare time? There are still more rocks to deal with and various smaller painting efforts to keep us busy before the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues take to the ice again this fall to defend their title.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Camping in the Kitchen or the Kitchen/Dining Room Project, Part One

While nothing will ever come close to the disruption of creature comforts of the bathroom renovation, showering on the patio for two months and a porta-potty on the driveway, the kitchen renovation project over the past couple months certainly added a colorful chapter to the ongoing saga of the Retro Ranch restoration. Beth may try to tell you that she was successful in cooking a frozen pizza on the Weber grill but I respectfully and completely disagree. (And Beth says “Mm, hmm.”) More on that later.

This was the year we were going to refresh the entire kitchen and the dining room floor. This should have been the last of the major restorations and disruptions at the Ranch. We received the estimates early in the year from our trusted contractors – Northwest Home Concierge (NWHC) for refinishing the kitchen cabinets, new countertops and backsplash, new marmoleum floors in the kitchen and dining room along with the necessary drywall, electrical and trim to complete these two rooms. In addition, new kitchen appliances were on top of these estimates. Unfortunately, due to the changes in the US tax laws (or the billionaire’s tax relief program as I call it) instead of our available funds going to our favorite contractors, their subs and local material suppliers, we sent a significant check to Washington, D.C. - insert cartoon swearing here.

Being short of the necessary liquid cash for the entire restoration, we went back to NWHC and asked Troy and Gordon to split the project over two years. Flooring and baseboard trim this year; countertops, backsplash and cabinet refinishing next year. The fun began in May. A week or two before the project started I removed the wallpaper (and paste) from the sofit over the cabinets and painted those areas. The range, dishwasher and fridge were the first things to go with only the fridge remaining functional in the garage. With appliances out there was more painting to do. 

This is where the camping begins. While the dishwasher was outdated and inefficient, it was also a convenient place to store dirty dishes until you had a full load. With the range/oven now stored in the garage, our only means of cooking at home were the microwave, and the grill on the patio - the kitchen now having gaping holes where major appliances had been.

Next up the vinyl flooring in the kitchen and the newly (since December) exposed vinyl flooring in the dining room was pulled up, old sub floor removed and a new sub floor installed. The NWHC team seems to love demo days as this work was completed in less than three days. Ted the Drywall Guy came out to do some repairs where the old dining room carpet had previously rolled up on the walls (an odd design that was popular at one time.) Ted tDwG also repaired some holes under the sink where old plumbing lines had previously been and some old water damage behind the dishwasher. Of course, that meant some additional painting.

Now it was time to start making things beautiful. Robert, who did the flooring and tile work in the laundry room/half bath project late last year, came with an amazing design concept for the kitchen floor that utilized some of the leftover blue marmoleum from the laundry room project that looks like a small area rug in the kitchen. Wow, what an artisan. He also used some marmoleum remnants to refresh under the kitchen sink and in the large garage cabinet floor.

With the new flooring in place, the NWHC team installed the moldings in the dining room and extended into the hallway. Some of the moulding was original and other pieces were from the batch we had custom made last winter for the laundry room project. It looks amazing.

Maybe a only microwave and a Weber Grill to cook ia a first world problem. Maybe washing dishes by hand is nothing to complain about and any number of people we know have refrigerators in the garage. Somehow we survived these inconveniences until that magic Friday when Standard TV and Appliance delivered and installed both the new dishwasher and range. While not “vintage” they look great in the kitchen - certainly better than the gaping holes where the old ones had been. A new refrigerator will wait until next year as a counter depth fridge means resizing the cabinet above the fridge. We will do this when the cabinets are refinished in 2020.

Oh, and about that pizza, Beth decided to try to bake a frozen pizza on the grill one night. (Well, why not?) Let’s just say that cooking a frozen pizza using a cookie sheet on top of a Weber Grill makes for a very darkened bottom crust. I, for one, am very happy to have a functioning range/stove, a 21st century dishwasher and the old fridge back in our halfway renovated kitchen!

Stay tuned for the entry/hall wallpaper and door extension projects!