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Looking backward, looking forward: 2013, 2014

21 Dec

It’s that time of year again — the time to make an inventory of what I have done and what I have failed to do (through my own grievous fault) here in the house. Time also to look forward and make plans (next to making lists, one of my favorite pastimes — so much more fun than actually doing work) for 2014.

Normally, as December comes to an end, I feel disappointed at not having accomplished the many home projects I’d hoped to do during the year. But one of the main reasons I started this little blog was to document what I had done, and in so doing, realize that I wasn’t such a do-nothing as I felt.

So, in 2013, the following happened at 29 Mattoon:

  • Put in a full bathroom in the guest suite (top floor). This was a major accomplishment and I don’t in any way minimize how important this was for Total Home Renovation Completion (target date of which had been 2012, but that ship has sailed).

Here are some before and afters:

During: the floor up and open.

During: the floor up and open.

Bathroom framing

Bathroom framing

Bathroom two

Blue floor and skirting boards. Hooray!

Blue floor and skirting boards. Hooray!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The bathroom construction led to the replacing of the very ancient cast iron waste pipe throughout the house and major reconstructive surgery on plumbing in basement. What once was iron is now plastic. Well, except for that one section behind the wall in the new bathroom. Fingers crossed.

 

Some of the old pipes.

Some of the old pipes.

Butler's pantry closet floor -- now with a view to the powder room below!

Butler’s pantry closet floor — now with a view to the powder room below!

Open ceiling. Collapsed ceiling.

Open ceiling. Collapsed ceiling.

Looking up through where the ceiling used to be in the ground floor powder room.

Looking up through where the ceiling used to be in the ground floor powder room.

New plastic pipe.

New plastic pipe.

New pipes.

New pipes.

More new pipes.

More new pipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • As a result of that project, I also got a light at the top of the basement stairs:

photo 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which, sadly, did not prevent me from falling head first down the whole flight of basement stairs on the day I was clearing a path for the masons to come and repair the exhaust channel for the oil furnace in the basement – this was the before, I can’t find an after, but trust me, it’s now safe and not oozing exhaust fumes into the basement:

Creepy and gross flue before being fixed.

Creepy and gross flue before being fixed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The stairwells got a couple of new lights; the grotty tin ceiling on the top floor was replaced by drywall, and the crumbling under-the-stairs plaster was shored up. All was painted a glossy light green. Again, trust me. These photos probably make no sense at all, but the ceilings look way better:

photo 4 photo 1 photo 3 photo 2 photo 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So those were my big projects of the year, and they really were big. I had hoped that I would be able to finish the hallways this year. Not only to fix the ceilings, but also to put up new wallpaper and carpet the stairs. Alas, it was not to be. My beloved cat, Jerome, died in 203. It was unexpected and I had the doctors try everything they could to save him, but they couldn’t. His medical bills equalled the cost of papering the walls and putting in carpet on the stairs. Also, little Taggy fell ill with a mysterious malady a few weeks ago and had to be rushed to the ER. He, thank God, is fine now and getting back to normal, but it also cost a pretty penny. And Claudette, the lovely and sweet cat with IBS is currently eating cat food that costs more per week than my human groceries. And last but not least, we are in heating season, i.e. the time of no home improvement projects. So nothing much will be happening here until the Spring at the earliest.

In other news of pets, I thought that Claudette missed having a cat friend, because after Jerome died, she would walk around and cry. So I got a kitten. His name is Walter. He’s a gangly teenager now. Sometimes he’s as sweet as can be to Claudette, and sometimes he’s a horrid beast. Trixie loves him to bits, and I’m pretty fond of him, too. Frankly, if I had to choose one or t’other, I’d rather have manky hallways and happy pets, but it would be nice to have pretty hallways and happy pets.

photo 1

photo 5 photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So for 2014, my realistic plans are:

  • Install tin ceiling in guest room bathroom
  • Turn guest room closet into “kitchenette”
  • Paper stripey stairwell
  • Install light in stripey stairwell

My “I’ve won the lottery” and/or “I get two long-term airbnb guests” plans are:

  • Finish the stairwells/halls with paint, paper, and carpet on stairs
  • Install remaining (11) storm windows on rear of house and have sills repaired

photo 4

Goodbye, 2013. RIP, Jeromey. Hello, 2014 — let’s see what you bring our way.

 

Curtains!

11 Nov

Today was supposed to be a day of major transformations. I had a handyman coming by who was going to install the rest of that striped wallpaper on the downstairs stairwell, install a tin ceiling in the guest bathroom, and wire up the closet -> kitchenette in the guest sitting room. We’d had a date set earlier (in October), but the tin ceiling panels hadn’t arrived by then. We’d be in touch via email and phone. I was sure he’d show. He didn’t. Sigh. So back to the drawing board with finding someone.

In the meantime, I worked on sewing up some drapes for the guest sitting room. I found a very charming P. Kaufmann fabric at Osgood’s (greatest fabric store in New England, if not beyond). It features elephants and viney things and is a heavy cotton velvet. It looks pre-aged. Just the thing. Unfortunately, I under-estimated the amount of blackout fabric I’d need, so I have to go back to get more and sew up one more short central panel.

Summer curtains.

Summer curtains.

Fabric and liner from Osgood's

Fabric and liner from Osgood’s

First panel up. Inspector Walter.

First panel up. Inspector Walter.

Fabric next to wall. Cute!

Fabric next to wall. Cute!

Trying to show the (mostly) finished work.

Trying to show the (mostly) finished work.

At least I managed to get some things done, since I arranged to work from home today to be here for the no-show handyman.

Guest Sitting Room Closet + Future Kitchenette

6 Jul

Had an uncharacteristic burst of energy this morning — fueled by iced coffee and A.C. Produce‘s amazing Tiramisu. Sometime soon (or later than soon), this will become a little kitchenette space for my AirBnB guests. There’s a water hook-up in there, and I’m pretty sure there’s a drain under the floor, but it might be lead (yeah, really). I don’t think it would be a major undertaking to put a sink in there, but I’m leaning towards just moving the microwave and fridge in there and letting people get water from the bathroom. Guests stay for such a short time that going to get water down the hall doesn’t seem like a major imposition.

Water hook-up.

Water hook-up.

Shelf and hooks galore.

Shelf and hooks galore.

Drawer of built-in dresser.

Drawer of built-in dresser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's still some removing to do.

There’s still some removing to do.

Built-in and nice (real) linoleum on top.

Built-in and nice (real) linoleum on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the closet looks empty, I basically just dragged the contents into the sitting room and piled some up in the “box room” (attic-type space). The energy burst didn’t last all that long, but there’s always tomorrow. Gotta take it slow on these hot days.

Anyway, here are some views of the 1973 Springfield Daily News that was lining one of the drawers.

Does your toupee smell?

Does your toupee smell?

1973 Newspaper from drawer

1973 Newspaper from drawer

Cartoon about the Middle East during the 1973 gas crisis

Cartoon about the Middle East during the 1973 gas crisis

The Summer of Closets has begun!

4 Jul

I’m on a limited budget this summer and am saving to try to get some storm windows installed this Fall, so I’ve decided that the interior work I can do this season is closets. There are six closets or closet-like spaces that need some attention and there’s no time like the present to do this budget-friendly work. So I started today (also because it’s a million degrees outside and it’s much nicer to be inside in the a/c than outside sweltering).

This was the guest room closet:

White walls and shelf

White walls and shelf

Cracked and junky walls

Cracked and junky walls

White walls, brown floor, Claudette is disgusted.

White walls, brown floor, Claudette is disgusted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was fine, but it was pretty low-end, and clearly a neglected guest room type closet. Well, I rent my guest room out on AirBnB, so I wanted it to be a little nicer for my guests. So in keeping with the low budget theme, I rounded up the leftover paint from the ceiling (which happened to be named Baby Turtle, of all things) and got to work, under the watchful eyes of Claudette.

 

Claudette inspecting closet

Claudette inspecting closet

Closet being painted.

Closet being painted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do. I also took out a remnant of the dining room carpet and cut it to fit the floor. It looks really nice and it feels nice to walk on. The whole thing took about three hours, and it looks fantastic in there now. It’s a very nice closet, instead of an icky guest room closet.

Nicely painted, carpeted closet.

Nicely painted, carpeted closet.

Another view of the completed closet.

Another view of the completed closet.

Long view of completed closet with carpeted floor.

Long view of completed closet with carpeted floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up for this space — I need to get a threshold, a full-length mirror, some nice wooden hangers, a shade for the exposed bulb, and a fancier pull chain. And that will mean the guest bedroom will be 100% (or 150%) complete. And that will be the only room in the house that doesn’t contain some pending project that I never quite get around to doing. Janks! Well, provided I actually get the stuff listed above…

Next up in the world of closets is this monstrosity:

Guest sitting room closet

Guest sitting room closet

Guest sitting room closet close up of horror

Guest sitting room closet close up of horror

How to install window boxes in a wooden window sill in a brick house.

15 May

I love window boxes and always wanted to put some up, but never quite perfected the installation (due to having a brick house). But last year, I sussed it! I got some large hooks and eyes, some black chain, and some light-weight window boxes.

Close up of hook and eye

Close up of hook and eye

I installed the hook in the sill, attached the chain to the eye, and hey presto — window boxes full of p

window box empty

Jerome inspecting my handiwork.

Jerome inspecting my handiwork.

Ta da -- the finished project

Ta da — the finished project

Leopard paper back up

15 Apr

The leopard wallpaper I used in this bathroom is discontinued (I discovered this a few years ago when I wanted to paper the ceiling with the same), so I only have a few precious scraps of it. Luckily, it’s a totally random match (and it’s dark in there) so you can basically throw up an uneven piece anywhere and no one is the wiser. So here is the completed wallpaper patching:

Wallpaper fixed.

Wallpaper fixed.

Art back up.

Art back up.

Not bad if I do say so myself. And you may also notice that I skim coated and sanded the ceiling. Now a wise person would have painted and primed the ceiling prior to putting the artwork back, but it was all sitting on my washing machine and I needed to do some laundry, (plus I don’t have any more of the gold paint), so I figured I’d put up the paper and re-hang the artwork first, then I’ll be very very careful (ha ha ha) when I prime and paint.

In other news, I did a little re-org with some of the art in there and moved this print to the kitchen on what had been an unforgivably bare wall:

Woodcut from Assisi.

Woodcut from Assisi.

 

Whenever I go to Assisi, I pick up one or two of these remarkable woodcuts from an artist there. I think it looks nicer here than in the powder room.

Here are two others by the same artist also in the ktichen:

Two other Assisis views

Two other Assisis views

Closer shot

Closer shot

 

They are all views of Assisi or scenes from Saint Francis’ life. They’re beautiful and intricate. I have them all around the house and like to give them as gifts, too.

So that’s the news here.

Always look on the bright side of life. Da dum, da dum, da dum da dum da dum.

13 Apr

Monty Python’s little ditty “Always look on the bright side of life” was playing in my head as I just put up this nifty sheetrock corner tape stuff that I found at the Home Depot today. Who knew? Probably professional contractors who install sheetrock for a living. But I love to learn new things and was dead chuffed to learn about this stuff. So I slapped some up there (“carefully” cutting it to the correct size for each length of wall and adhering it with joint compound) and put a thin skim coat over the whole bare piece of  ‘rock (that’s trade lingo, you know, I’m cool). I’ll sand it tomorrow morning before church and see if I can get away with it as is or if it needs another coat.

In case you missed the moral of the tail, the bright side of the unfinished work is that I got to learn about sheetrock corner tape. Don’t grumble, give a whistle. 🙂

Corners filled in and one coat of compound

Corners filled in and one coat of compound

Magic sheetrock corner tape. $1.49

Magic sheetrock corner tape. $1.49