Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bargain Hunting

My mother raised me to be a bargain shopper.  Seriously!!  She was a marathon shopper - she would pack her lunch when she went to the outlets, to make sure she didn't waste any time eating.  After all, there were bargains to be found.  She would always buy things out of season, because that was when you'd get the biggest discount.  And she never, ever paid full price!

So, I'm a chip off the old block.  A 'Clearance' sign can stop me dead in my tracks.  With the advent of online shopping, I can search to see who has the best deal on a specific item.  But the most important attribute for a bargain hunter is to be willing to spend time shopping.  Which I'm happy to do - just ask my husband!!

Over the holidays, we drove down to Atlanta and I was able to stop at not one, but two Pottery Barn Outlets (there are only 8 in the whole country)!!!  I found the perfect sconces for the bathroom at 70% off.
Pottery Barn Sconces, RH Pivot Mirror

Vintage Style Medicine Cabinet
I've made multiple trips to Restoration Hardware's outlets in PA and MA and found great buys on mirrors, lighting fixtures and a vintage style medicine chest.  I combined a sale and coupon to get a great deal on a light fixture from Ballard Designs for the foyer light.
RH Chatham Sconce - clever note on wall!

For those of us in Maine, we have a store - Mardens - that specializes in selling products from distressed stores. When a couple of local Lowe's stores that went out of business, we were able to get great deals on a kitchen vent hood and bathroom vanity.

And of course I continue to shop at Homegoods, the ReStore and any clearance section I can find!!  All focused on creating high end style at a reasonable price.  After all, we want this house to have top quality features.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Customer Service is Alive and Well

I recently ordered this fabulous Caliban doorbell, online from Signature Hardware.  I really like the look and think it compliments our 1900 Victorian.  It must be popular, because it was backordered.  But it showed up a couple of weeks ago.  The box stated that I needed to inspect it within 5 days and report any damage.  I looked it over and it was great - just like the online photo.

But when we tried to install it yesterday, it wouldn't work.  We had to go back to the cheap plastic one that was already there.  I called Signature Hardware this morning, expecting to have a fight on my hands, after all the 5 days has come and gone.  Plus, I'd lost the paperwork and order number.   But the Customer Service Rep said she could see my order number from my incoming phone number.....and that she would ship me a replacement immediately.  Isn't that amazing?  I'm so impressed!!

That's what I call customer service!

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mother Nature is Helping Out

We hope to get the house on the market in the next few weeks, so there has been a whirlwind of activity.  A huge part of readiness is the exterior and 'curb appeal' of the house.  We were so worried when we started the renovation that we wouldn't be able to do all the outside work before we put the house on the market.  After all, you really can't grow grass seed, paint outside or power wash a house in the winter in Maine.

James Burns Painting
We talked with several painters, who all dissuaded us from even thinking about painting until late April or May.  But since we're hoping to get the house on the market soon, we needed to get moving.  We met with James L. Burms Painting and he agreed that if we got a good week of weather, he could do the work.  Well, we got a spectacular stretch of weather (who would have believed 80 degrees in March!?!) and the new paint job is really transforming the house.

Jim started by power washing, to get all the grime off.  Then he prepped and caulked all the new windows and trim.  Just the primer made a huge difference in the appearance of the house!

While Jim was painting up high, Richard was working on the front porch.  The ugly old storm door is gone and we've painted the original door a glossy black.  With it's beveled glass, crystal doorknob and dentil molding, it's a real beauty and shouldn't be hidden behind scalloped aluminum!

And I finally got to hang the Pottery Barn mailbox that I bought months ago!  I just love how it looks, a nice change from the old stagecoach one from the Bonanza era (I know some of you aren't old enough to know what that is!).
New Pottery Barn Mailbox

Bonanza era mailbox

We're getting pretty excited about the overall look!  Next week, the team from Lawn Enforcement will be coming to work on the yard.  Jim will do the final coat of paint.  And the shutters and gutters are going up. We'll even put the house numbers back up (without numbers, we've been using the dumpster in the driveway to tell folks which house is ours - LOL)   Inside, we'll be finishing the bathroom and painting like crazy, because the floors get done starting April 2nd.  Stay tuned for more before and after photos.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Green Renovation

We've heard statistics that say half of all the materials in landfills come from old building materials.  Yikes!  It certainly makes you think differently about how you renovate a house.

We've given that a lot of thought throughout our renovation project.  And we've found two key resources that everyone should be aware of.

Habitat for Humanity's Restore
Most cities have a ReStore and they provide a tremendous service.  They sell donated home products - both gently used and new.  This provides three great benefits.  First, they generate income to help them build more homes for people in need.  Secondly, they preserve the environment, by keeping reusable items out of landfills and finally, they serve the community by providing affordable quality products.

On our house, we were able to donate light and bath fixtures.  And we were able to buy some as well - so we helped on both ends!

Here's my favorite ReStore find for this project.  This old victorian style fixture was very dark and tarnished.  But with a LOT of elbow grease and Brasso, look at it now!

The detail is amazing, look at the little screws that are used to hold the shade in place - tiny flowers!!  They don't make them like that anymore!

One helpful hint - they are a bit cautious about what they will take.  For example, we tried to donate a couple of ceiling fans that were in great shape - but they had too many in stock already and weren't interested.  It pays to call them first and check.


I've become a huge Craigslist fan.  Whether you're renovating a home or moving.... or just cleaning out the basement, this is a great resource to get rid of things quickly.  Using Craigslist is simple.  It's easy to take a picture of the item you want to get rid of, upload it to their website and wait for responses.  We've met some wonderful people this way - they're happy to get a bargain and we're happy to have them haul it away and keep it out of a landfill.

As an example, we had lots and lots of windows that came out of our house.  When I listed them on Craigslist as 'free 1900 wavy glass windows', I was overwhelmed by the response.  One couple took some to build a greenhouse, another for a family camp.  We also had a furniture builder come take a couple to reuse on his projects.  What a great way to breathe new life into them!

So don't just throw everything into a dumpster.  Think about whether there is another life for a product that doesn't fit your taste or style - but will give someone else some enjoyment!

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The 3rd Floor is Done!!

Lots of big changes in the last couple of weeks.  The 3rd floor carpeting has been installed, the lighting fixtures put up and the painting completed.  It's so wonderful to have a place to hang out, that isn't covered in construction dust.

Here's some sneak peeks....and a few before photos.  Next time you see it, we'll have it staged for the Open House!


We choose wall-to-wall carpeting to provide a little soundproofing for the 2nd floor.  With this commercial carpeting (guaranteed to never stain!!) and the heavy padding, it will really help muffle sounds if someone is upstairs while others are sleeping in the bedrooms below.
Bonus Room - After

Bonus Room - Before

Back Bedroom - After.  I love how beautifully the hardware polished up on the built in dresser!

Back Bedroom - Before
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Different Kind of 'Flip'

We HATE the term 'house flip' and keep trying to come up with something new.  You've seen the TV shows that show 'flippers' buying houses, occasionally stopping by to yell at the contractors and reaping enormous profits, all in a few weeks.  Even Wikipedia has a House Flipping definition - buying real estate and quickly reselling it for a profit.

So, how do you describe people that purchase a house, carefully updating it to reflect its historic past - while ensuring it has the amenities required for today's lifestyle?  And we don't occasionally drive by, we're working at the house all day, every day.  That doesn't fit the model of a TV house flipper.

So, what could be a new term?  Any suggestions?  We'd love to hear your ideas!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Let There be Light - and Kitchen Sneak Peek

Steve Michael - installing new lights
The team from Elldee Associates Electric came back this week and got all the electrical work completed.  What a difference it makes.  Now we have lights all over the house, all new wiring and switches when you enter rooms!  They've done such a great job....take a look at the progress.

Kitchen - sneak peek!!  Lighting makes such a difference.   Still more to do......but we're making progress.

Dining Room Chandelier

It's wonderful to get the new light fixtures out of boxes and up on the ceiling.  What do you think of the dining room chandelier?  It also comes with great lamp shades for each of the bulbs, but I think I like it better like this?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Foyer Chandelier - love the ceiling pattern!

Before - nail through cable, yikes!
Remember the surprise we found behind the vinyl siding?   The wiring with nails through it?  That's all been fixed and we're now up to code!

Jason Lebrun installing new exterior lights
And last but not least - we have a new sub panel.  I know, not the usual thing that gets you excited, but it means that all the knob and tube wiring is gone and we've got a nice, safe house!  
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stairwell Transformation - Farewell Purple & Orange

The staircase to the 3rd floor was scary - bright purple and orange paint, broken black plastic treads,  and no handrail.  Wow, it was in need of a dramatic change.  Our first thought was to just paint it white (that's when I took this picture), but that seemed too stark and we weren't sure white was a great color for stair treads.

Sooooo....I did some searching online and Pinterest had some great inspiration (not on Pinterest yet?  Send me a note and I'll send you an invite!).

I decided to use a combination of a couple of these - two colors of stripes and stenciled numbers. But the key to getting the stripes right is for them to be perfectly aligned.   The eye wants to look for variation, so these stripes had to be straight and a uniform width, all the way up.  How do we do that?  Well, you could use levels and lines.  But, this is a great application for our new Bosch laser level (GLL2-40).   Of course it's designed for much more technical applications, but it really came in handy.   We set it up on our camera tripod and instantly had vertical lines to do our taping.

See the red laser lines that Robin is using?

The advantage to this design is you only have to tape once and then paint your multi colored stripes.My friend Robin Amorello (an incredibly talented Kitchen designer) offered to come give me a hand.  It was great having two of us as we set everything up on the stairwell.  

After we taped, we started painting.  It went quickly and before it dried, we carefully removed the tape.  This helps keep the lines cleaner and avoids pulling up the base layer of paint.
Two coats of paint

We let that dry overnight and I came back the next day and stenciled in the stair numbers.  What do you think?  I love it!  It jazzes up the steps and provides a little touch of whimsy.  I'm going to coat it with a couple coats of clear, water based polyurethane to protect it and then it's ready for traffic!

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Floor Plan

We're still not exactly sure when we'll be able to hold the Open House.  Lots of people want to see it, but with all the work going on,  tools and construction material all over the place, it's not safe for them to wander around.

So, we thought we'd put the floor plan on the blog.  It's not to exactly to scale (does anyone have an affordable 2D drawing tool they would recommend?), since I did it on powerpoint, but it gives you the general flow.  Overall square footage is 1,722.  And it shows the walls we've opened up, the new kitchen layout and the overall flow.  


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Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Facelift that's More than Skin Deep - Back Deck

Even when you think you're doing something really simple, old houses have a way of surprising you with more work than you expected.  The back deck on our project house was really, really tired.  It's good and sturdy (or so we thought), but the pressure treated wood had seen better days.  So.....we just wanted to quickly redeck it, using the same sustainable mahogany as the front porch.  Quick and easy, right???

Surprise #1 - No joist hangers.  Each joist was just toe nailed in!  In fact, some of the joists started coming loose when the decking was torn off.

Surprise #2 - No blocking between the joists (those are the pieces of wood that go between the joists to provide more stability).

Surprise #3 - Ineffective moisture barrier on the ledger board - which is nailed right against the house.  Luckily, it doesn't look like there's any damage, except where the sliding glass door was.  And we've already completely redone that part.

Surprise #4 - The domino effect.  This happens every time you fix up one thing, and then something else doesn't look as nice (ah, the domino effect happens over and over again during a renovation!)  We thought the existing railing on the deck looked fine, but now we're having second thoughts.  We might need to make some changes.  Does anyone know the theme from 'The Money Pit'?

So, it ended up being quite a bit more involved than we first thought, but it was important to fix all of those issues.  We think it makes a huge difference - in how it looks and how it will last for the new owners.  Now we just need some warm weather to sit out and enjoy it!

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