Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Introducing our Next Project: Lucky Number 7 - The Duplex

It's time to move on to our next project and this one is completely different than anything we've done before.  It's a duplex.  Built in 1928, it appears to have always been a 2 family home.  And it's a big duplex.  It has almost 2,500 square feet with 4 bedrooms/2 baths on one side and 3 bedrooms/1 bath on the other.

I'm pretty excited about this house.  My husband Richard.....maybe not so excited.  As he put it, he's not sure he has the stomach for some of the challenges :-)  Thankfully the rest of the team is as enthusiastic as I am.  This house was in foreclosure.  So that means when you go to look at it, it has no power and no water.  Kind of creepy, actually.  The flashlight app on my phone got quite a workout as we peered around!  And that might be one reason Richard didn't want to hang around.

I knew it had been on the market for quite awhile.  We heard someone else had tried to buy it with an FHA loan, but there were too many issues (no working heating system for one) for FHA to cover the loan.  So it went back on the market and I bid on it.  But foreclosures aren't for the faint of heart.  This one has some challenges we'll need to work through!  Here's a few we found, before we went through the front door:

Watch That Last Step!
First challenge - the staircase to nowhere.  Surely it used to go down to the ground, but we can't find any clear evidence of it now.  Obviously, we're going to need to fix that!  I'm thinking a small second floor deck might be nicer than taking up a big chunk of the backyard with a staircase.  What do you think?
The Staircase to Nowhere
Second challenge - See what happens when gutters don't work right and water pummels a deck for a long time?  We're going to have to replace most of this decking.  And I think we might find some carpenter ants (who love wet wood) in there as well.

This gave us all a good laugh!
Third challenge - Hmmm.....doesn't that garage appear to be leaning?  And some of the internal structure has been compromised.  How do you like the twisted/rotting 2x4 holding up the rafters?  Or how about how they mounted the ceiling fan?  We thought that was pretty entertaining!    We need to do some structural reinforcement.  I don't want to store anything in there until we get it strengthened.
That's a shaky looking 2x4 support!

We've also got a few broken windows, a front railing that wiggles (a lot), and missing gutters.  But there is some good news as well!  The siding is in nice shape and the roof looks pretty good.  And a feature I really love - this front entrance.  Isn't it cool?  The front door to each unit is on either side of this entrance.  Why, you ask, are the window panes painted white?  They are on the back of shower units, so I'm planning to tear them out and create a mud bench & closet for each unit.

This should be a fun project.  I hope you'll enjoy following along!  Want to see more pics?  Check them out here (Owners Unit) and here (Tenants Unit).

And as always, be sure an 'Like' us on Facebook to see even more photos and updates.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Before & After: First Floor Bedroom and Bath

The bedroom and bathroom both got a dramatic makeover in this house.  Why?  A couple of reasons:

1)  The bedroom had a staircase running through it, so it really couldn't be used as a typical bedroom.  We moved the staircase to the front of the house and reclaimed this space!

We also tore out the old mottled harvest gold carpet and refinished the original maple floors.

Nice change, don't you think?

No more staircase!!!
Bathroom - Before
2)  The bathroom had an even more dramatic makeover.  When we started gutting the other spaces, we quickly realized that we needed to add an additional 2 feet to line it up with the bathroom above.  So while we were at it, we changed it out extensively - while trying to give it a true 1920's feel.  (For more on our 'sanitary' design approach, click here.)

We gained a lot of space when we added 2 additional feet to the bathroom
That allowed us to install a beautiful antique style sink from Maidstone.  We also added gleaming Restoration Hardware 'Bistro' sconces and a retro toothbrush and cup holder.

We cleaned up the existing 1927 American Standard claw foot bathtub and added a gleaming new stained glass 'window'
Quite a transformation, don't you think?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Character Trait You Have to Have in this Business - Resilience

So, the term for today is resilience.  Because in this business, it's essential.  Case in point:

Sunday morning, I planned to spend the day packing up the bungalow.  The house is done (except for a final coat of poly on the floors) and I need to get all the staging furniture out of there.

But it didn't work out that way.  I arrived at the house and was surprised to see a small puddle on the kitchen floor.  Hmmm.....how did that happen?  I pulled out the fridge, but that didn't seem to be the problem.  Then I looked up and realized there was a drip coming from the light fixture.  NOT a good thing!

The weird thing is, the bathroom isn't above the kitchen.  So what was leaking?  It's been really dry, we haven't had any rain.

So I went exploring.  Long story short, after crawling behind the knee wall the entire length of the house, I found a bigger puddle.  And it ran along the heat pipe, behind the master bedroom wall.  Thankfully my plumber is as crazy as I am and also works 7 days a week - and with the two of us going back and forth along the wall, we finally realized the source of the problem was in the wall next to the flue.

The culprit?  A finish nail that was used to nail the new baseboard to the wall.  As we pulled the nail out, we heard the telltale 'whoosh' noise as air entered the pipe.  And found a very rusty finish nail.

But, you ask, didn't that get installed a couple of months ago?  And hasn't that heat pipe been there for many years?  Well, yes.  But, we had an unusually cold night on Saturday and Dominic's theory is that caused the nail and pipe to contract, creating a pinhole leak.

So, the good news?  I discovered the problem very quickly, before it could do any major damage.  We need to do a little touch up painting in the kitchen.  The pipe repair can be done behind the baseboard and once we get the baseboard back in place, we should be good as new.

But what about resilience?  Well in this business, anything can happen.  And it frequently does, particularly when you think you've gotten everything finished.  I could make a long list of the 'surprises' we've had, everything from things that accidentally got broken to weird things that you couldn't dream up.  Because when you do a major renovation, you're touching lots of things and issues will crop up.   But as long as you're resilient, you can keep moving forward and work through the problems!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Before & After: The Living Room and Dining Room

When people see this house for the first time, they have a hard time believing how much its changed. Maybe that's because the finished design seems like such a logical layout for the space.  So before I show you any photos, let's start with the changes to the floor plan.

The original plan had the front door entering into a narrow living room.  By moving the staircase from the back bedroom to the front of the house, we were able to move the front door to a more logical location off of the front porch.  The change provides a lot more living space and creates a much more open floor plan.

From the photo above, you can see other changes that we made.  We widened the opening between the Living Room and Dining Room, to make it more open and give us the opportunity to install Craftsman style colonnades (see here for more info).  It was a challenging project that didn't go exactly as planned, but we're very happy with the result!

One of the biggest projects in the house was building a new staircase to the second floor.  It's a true work of art that took weeks to complete and really shows off the skills of the team from Waterhouse Builders.  And there's a secret closet under the stairs, cleverly hidden behind the wainscoting.  Click here to see the whole project!

And to integrate the old flooring with the new, we created this inset floor on the staircase landing.

The custom woodwork continues in the Dining Room with the plate rail and wainscoting.  And we replaced the closet and bifold door with a built in cabinet, complete with recessed lighting and a USB outlet.  And of course beautiful Craftsman style hardware on the drawers.

I couldn't finish this space without adding some pretty special lighting.   This Visual Comfort chandelier has a compass rose canopy, that I accented with directional pointers.

But my favorite fixture?  Is this tall tubular fixture with seeded glass that glows when it's lit!  It's from Hubbardton Forge, hand forged in Vermont, and really makes a statement in the stairwell.  It's got Craftsman style, with a bit of a contemporary twist.

So what do you think?  We tried to take a bland, boring set of rooms and give them character and style with custom finishes.  Did we succeed?

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Craftsman Bungalow: Kitchen and Breakfast Room the Before and After

The kitchen got quite the face lift on this project.  Here's where we started.  Nice cabinets, linoleum floor, formica countertops with maple edging.  The refrigerator 'floated' in the corner.  Lighting is a big fluorescent fixture at the ceiling and another one over the sink.

What did we do?  Well, we didn't replace the cabinets, but we did move them around with some rebuilding and relocating.  We added granite countertops, a custom backsplash, and all new appliances.  We were lucky enough to find the original antique maple floors buried under layers of flooring.  But even with all that, in my mind, there are two things that make a huge difference in a blah vs. beautiful kitchen - lighting and hardware.  They say that hardware is the jewelry in a kitchen and I tend to agree.  It can totally change the way a kitchen looks.  And lighting, well lighting makes a kitchen sparkle when it's done right (not to mention work a whole lot better for the cook)!

We also did a big update in the breakfast room.  This was a former porch, that the previous owners had enclosed.  It was a nice room, with a vaulted ceiling and lots of windows.  But the big closet took up lots of space and the dark ceiling made it seem much lower than it really was.
So.....we removed the big closet (we added lots of additional storage in the rest of the house) and replaced it with this built in Craftsman style mud bench and hooks.  We painted the ceiling white and finished off all the wood trim and added matching light fixtures.  And of course we added this hand crafted $2,800 light fixture, that I found at the local ReStore (see story here).  

The stainless steel topped table came from Crate & Barrel and I added these cool stools from Target.  We decided to leave the windows bare - to let all that sunlight come shining through!
Breakfast Room - After!

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Before & After: The Front Porch

We had a whirlwind Open House weekend with lots of visitors (we even had Cheryl, our reader from Nova Scotia pay us a visit!).  It resulted in 7 offers and we are now under contract.  It's always so bittersweet - I'm thrilled for the new buyer, but it's so hard to tell the other 6 folks that they didn't get the house.

And now that we've had a chance to take a deep breath, I wanted to start sharing some of the before and after photos.  I thought I'd start with the front porch, because frankly, it was a dumping space for tools throughout most of the project and wasn't photo op worthy!  It didn't come together until the very last minute.  But it's a charming space.  It faces south east, so it gets the morning light - the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of coffee and the newspaper in the morning!

We made quite a few changes in this space.  We swapped the front door location with the window location.  Of course that changed the flow in the house, but also on the porch.  Now the front door can swing against the wall and you see the full porch when you enter the space.

Door & Window Before
Door & Window - During

Since it's such a cozy spot, we made it a multi season porch, by adding electric baseboard heat.  We also added additional insulation in the crawl space below the porch and installed new replacement windows.  With heated space above and around it, it should be much warmer!  And we added this lovely Restoration Hardware light fixture, to light it up as you come through the front door at night.
I found this wicker modular loveseat at IKEA, that's the perfect size for the space!  With a couple of throw pillows (Crate & Barrel), plants and a small table (IKEA), the porch is ready for its new owners!

Wouldn't you love to start your day in here?

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