Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Bunny Suits vs. Hercules. Who Will Win that Battle?

Last week was pretty exciting, we said goodbye to Hercules.  Hercules is a 1200 pound boiler by Sears Roebuck that started life burning coal in the basement (more about that later) and then got upgraded to oil at some point in its history.  Getting Hercules up the steps and out of the basement is truly a Herculean task, so we needed professional help.  Because you see, we could also see bits of asbestos around the edges and knew it needed to be properly disposed of.

Wait, wait, you say.  Didn't you already do asbestos remediation in the house?  Why yes, yes we did.  On week one of the project, we learned that the flooring in the kitchen and back bedroom had asbestos, So we had a remediation team come in and remove it.

And then you say, wouldn't it have been simpler and cheaper to have it all done at once??  Why yes, yes it would have been.  BUT, we needed Hercules to keep the house warm until the gas boiler could be installed.'s a much more expensive proposition, but we're doing it right.

And doing it right is a big undertaking.  The team from Safe Environmental Solutions arrived and got to work.  First step, installing the decontamination chamber and containment unit next to Hercules.

The area was walled off from the rest of the house, with a special negative air machine that ensures any nasty fibers released in the containment chamber stay there due to the lower air pressure.

Once they started pulling Hercules apart (dressed in bunny suits and respirators of course), the real fun started.  To leave the chamber, everyone enters the dirty unit to remove the bunny suit, enters the shower unit to wash down and then the clean chamber to get dressed again (oh and they have special waterproof cell phone cases that have to be washed down too!)!!

And what did they find? Well just pulling it apart was an adventure.  They had to constantly spray the asbestos with a surfactant infused water (they call it 'wetter water' - catchy name, don't you think?) to keep it from becoming 'friable' - the term for the fibers becoming airborne.  And separating the different chambers was a big task.  This thing has been a single unit for 90 years and it didn't want to come apart.

They were shocked at the amount of asbestos.  The entire unit was wrapped in asbestos blocks, with additional asbestos between each chamber.

It was the most asbestos in one boiler any of them had ever seen - and they do this all the time!!  In addition, they discovered lots of coal soot, which meant they were covered with both white and black sludge.  Thank heavens the bunny suits are tough!
Solid blocks of asbestos
Once they're done, the air purifier runs for awhile and then a 3rd party tester comes in to do air sample tests.  We came out clean as a whistle - so they could pull the whole thing down.  Elapsed time was 3 days, so a big job!

Now we can start making that basement a bit prettier!  Stay tuned for updates! Pin It

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mid Mod Kitchen, Bar and Mud Room

What’s one part Modern, one part mid century and one part pretty cool?  Our kitchen, with a separate wet bar and mud room. This whole house was totally different than anything we have ever done before, and it was a challenge - but we're pretty thrilled with the results!

So where did we start?  This kitchen is a great example of what was considered a new mid-century trend - making the kitchen the center of family life (historically, kitchens were small rooms - dedicated to the cook and not very family friendly). It has lots of room for the whole family to come together for cooking, meals and entertaining.

It has big, high ceilings and tons of space - but also a few challenges, like lots of doorways and walkways - not to mention it overlooks the sunken living room.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was how dark it was - despite having a giant skylight in the next room.  Here's a great illustration of the difference between before and after.  See the new window in the kitchen?  My husband says this is his single favorite change in the whole house.  While the old ribbon window was very cool, it didn't really let a lot of light in the room.  And once we installed the new window, we realized there is a beautiful view out to the courtyard. An added bonus is the light coming in the tall window makes the room seem taller as well.

We loved the idea of a center island and wanted to expand on that, with even more space for family and friends to gather around. Now we have seating for 6, as well as lots of workspace so everyone can lend the chef (that would be Richard!) a hand!

Kitchen looking towards bar and dining room - Before
Kitchen After
The other big changes?  Opening up the doorway to the stairwell. The stairwell is such a dramatic space with the giant skylight above it and a great, retro staircase.  By making the doorway from the kitchen taller and wider, it brings more sunlight into the kitchen and you get the bonus of seeing more of that great space!

If you've been reading the blog for awhile, you've realized I'm  a bit obsessed with tile. So I wanted to make sure we had something really special in our own home.  When I saw this pattern, I couldn't say no.  You see, it's called Stardust - after David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album, which was published in 1972 - the same year the house was built!!  Kismet!!

And then there is the bar!!!!  The bar is such a key element of the living space, we wanted to do it right.  The original, vintage wallpaper cleaned up beautifully and still graces the entire wall.

We updated the shelving with large glass doors, to display bottles, decanters and such.

We also kept the original sink, with its uber cool bottle holders.  But we removed the mirror and opened up the back wall, so you can see out to the living room and people can 'belly up to the bar'!!

We opened up the doorways on either end of the bar.  Now it's a bright, open space that links to every other room.

And then we have a mudroom!  I can't tell you how excited I am about having a dedicated mudroom - especially as we hit a particularly messy mud season hear in Maine.  We installed a hard working porcelain tile that can take any abuse that comes its way.  We replaced the original cobalt blue pantries with white ones that are a bit deeper, to provide even more storage.

But it's the details that make it such a great room.  The Bubble pendant, the wood coat rack and the very mid-mod wallpaper, really make the space!

Petey's getting the hang of being a dog model!

We've been living in the house for a couple of months now and are really enjoying the kitchen layout.  And while I'm wild about the mudroom, Richard is happiest mixing up fancy new cocktails!  Cheers!

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

It's All About the Details at the Storybook Cottage

We've made so much progress on the Storybook Cottage!  It's hard to believe how much it's changed.

Electrical, plumbing and drywall are all complete.  And a crisp coat of white primer makes the whole place look so fresh and inviting.    Can you believe the difference with the walls removed??

Starting Point
In Progress - Walls removed and new windows in place, look at the sunlight flooding the rooms!!
But that's just the beginning of the finish work -  it's all the custom work that really makes the house special.  And we have a LOT of custom projects!

Habitat for Humanity ReStore find - $30!!!!
First up - this corner cabinet that I found at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore for $30!!!  Amazing bargain and I knew it would look fantastic in the corner at the bottom of the steps.  It's one of the first things you see as you enter the room.  And with the arch and the serpentine shelves, it's a real 'wow' piece.

Kyle got it installed and it's really exceeded expectations.  He built a platform for it to sit up at the baseboard level, so it blends seamlessly into the wall trim.  Doesn't it look like it was always there, between the windows?  Such a charming use of space!

Perfect fit!!
But that's not the only special project in the open living space.  In the dining area, I wanted to add a custom banquette.  We've done a banquette before, but we wanted this to be a bit different, with lots of seating space for family get togethers.

Each of the banquette sections will open for storage (because who doesn't need more storage space!), but the overall look is clean and streamlined.  We used extra wide beadboard for a bit of New England styling on the back.  And once the floors have been finished, we'll add tall baseboard molding, to match the rest of the house.

Next up - replacing the old, unused front door with this original, wavy glass window. Isn't it a great feature? It was part of the rarely used porch next to the front door.

We moved it to the front of the house and now it lends such a vintage vibe to the room, while also looking good from the exterior!

And did you notice the interior molding?  There were so many different moldings in this house, reflecting the different additions and updates over its history.  After a bit of investigation, we realized that the 2nd floor molding was original - with classic casing and rosettes in each corner.  We did some searching and found molding to match and have installed it throughout the whole house, for a cohesive look and lots of vintage charm!

And what's the project that has kept me busy for the last week and a half??  Stripping all the paint off of the newel post and handrail.  It was a HUGE job, but what an amazing difference!   Once it was cleaned up, I used an oiled finish on the vertical grain fir and it positively glows!

What else?  Well, the bathrooms are in process, the floors will get finished this week and the kitchen is on deck after the floors are in.  Stay tuned!
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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Growing Local, Buying Local, & Building Local

You don't have to spend much time in Maine to realize we are really proud of our state.  We have beautiful landscapes, beaches, lighthouses and more.  And we also have some pretty fabulous iconic products - think lobsters, blueberries, LL Bean Boots and wood.  That's right, wood.  Maine has some of the biggest timber forests in the nation.
Spring Point Lighthouse and Fort Gorges

So when I realized we needed to replace the cedar shingles on the house, it didn’t make sense to order shingles from another state (or country for that matter).  We have plenty of sawmills right here in Maine.

After some research, I reached out to Dow's Eastern White Shingles in Corinth, Maine for more information.  They've been around since the 1920's and now father and son run the mill operations.    

Their cedar shingles are a bit different than what you find at a local lumberyard.  They’re thicker – 5/8” instead of 3/8”, so they offer more structural rigidity.  They also air dry them, instead of kiln drying.  This leaves the oils in the shingle, which helps prolong the life.  They state their shingles will have a life of 50-100 years. I certainly won’t be around that long - but the next homeowners might!.  After all, the last homeowners lived there for 63 years!

It was fun to see the process of how they cut and sort.  They start with a huge pile of logs, cut them to length, saw them into shape, and then cut them to exact shape.

In our case, we went with the top grade – no knots for the bottom 6 inches of the shingle.  Since we will be leaving them natural, I wanted a clean, cohesive look.

Jeff delivered the shingles himself and we got them stacked and ready to go.

The team from Oceanside Exteriors arrived to start installation.  They made quick work of removing the old shingles and got started installing the replacements.

Woven corner and 'swoop' feature above the first floor
My favorite feature? Well, actually there are two that you see in this photo.  First are the classic 'woven' corners, which takes a lot of skill, but exactly duplicate the original (a far easier approach would be to put white 'corner boards' on the house, which would allow a simple straight cut  up against the edges, but that would change the whole look of the house).  Woven corners allow us to highlight my second favorite feature - the gentle 'swoop' out at the bottom of the shingles.  It makes me think of a skirt, that flares gently at the hem and it just adds so much antique charm to the exterior of the house.

Don't they look fantastic?  And the whole area smells so fragrant!  We have not coated them with anything.  Jeff Dow said if left alone, they will weather to a soft, silver gray - which is so typical here in New England.  And if the new owners want to paint them, they can certainly do that.

Next step is getting the house painted.  You may remember I had pinned this inspiration photo months ago. (turns out, the inspiration house belongs to one of our readers!!!  How cool is that!!) As I tried to create our version, I narrowed down to 3 different paint colors.  And after agonizing over them for days, in various light levels, I decided to use Smoky Blue by Sherwin Williams.  The teal blue looked a bit odd next to the cedar shingles.  And the deep blue had a bit of a purplish hue in direct sunlight.   The Smoky Blue is a  classic shade and will look fantastic against the cedar shingles today and also when they weather to the silver gray.

But before we could even start painting, we needed to deal with the lead paint that's on the exterior trim.  As many of you probably know, lead paint chips can be extremely dangerous and we needed to deal with it appropriately.  

We've worked with Lavalle's Painting in the past - they are terrific and certified to manage lead projects.  This means they have to surround the house with plastic, wet it down to minimize any dust, and carefully scrape the old paint.  The plastic is then rolled up, labeled and property disposed of.  Next step is to coat it with a bonding primer to ensure any remaining lead paint is properly adhered to the wood.

The rainy weather has been helpful to the scraping process.  But now we need some sunshine to get it finished.  

I know it looks a bit rough right now, but stay tuned, it will look fantastic!

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