July 30, 2009

Quick Curb Appeal

This is the front of the row house before we purchased it. Even though our current projects are on the INSIDE, I couldn't completely ignore the front porch. So, $41 at the big orange store and voila! That's opal basil, oregano, lemon thyme, pansies and galardia in the boxes, and the requisite Victorian-ish ferns hanging above. Much better!

Oooh! Guess who came to the row house today? The FLOOR GUYS!

July 29, 2009

Consulting with a Professional

Thank you all so much for your comments and suggestions about the floors! We are definitely making progress. After whipping up a floor plan for the row house (One of us is an architect. Hint: it is not me), we had a flooring professional come give us a bid and some advice.

Daryl Dion (of A Dion and Sons Floor Service) came out to the row house to take a look at the newly exposed pine/fir flooring. One of us (Hint: it is still not me) has worked with Mr. Dion before.

-Will the cat urine stains come out?
-Should we refinish the closet floors (we have four closets) or leave them as is?
-How do we get the warmth of oil-based polyurethane without the toxic VOCs?
-What can be done about the 1/4 inch gaps between the floorboards on the upstairs landing? You can't see from the photo below, but trust me: the gaps are wide and deep enough that if we ever can't find the dog, I will look between the floorboards.

We asked Mr. Dion if we should put rope or wood putty in the floorboard gaps. His answer? There is nothing we can do, short - of course- of installing new floors or spending a lot of money nailing down the ones we have. Um......no.

He believes most of the cat urine stains will come out with sanding. If they don't, we might patch the stained areas using salvage wood from the bathroom or kitchen.

He'll apply one coat of oil-based sanding sealer to bring out the warmth of the wood. Then, he'll top the sanding sealer with three coats of satin finish water-based polyurethane. I think they do a light sanding between coats of the water-based poly. The painted floors (remember, we're painting the kitchen and bathroom floors) will be sanded and sealed with oil-based paint primer. Since it's just two rooms, I think I can deal with the stink without throwing one.

Mr. Dion recommended that we sand the closets because it doesn't add that much to the bottom line while providing a continuous seal to the wood.

Mr. Dion will start the floors later this week or early next week and it will take five to seven days. Cool! Next, we have to decide what colors to paint the kitchen and bathroom floors. My white/off-white idea was vetoed by one of us (Hint: it was not me.) So now we're looking at colors.

July 28, 2009

Weirdest Discovery Yet

We found this on the wall when we took over the house. What. The. Heck. IS IT?!

I don't know what to say. I'm not clever enough to say something clever about this.

What do you think it is?

July 22, 2009

More Discoveries

Each of the thirty-seven thousand windows in the row house are covered with window treatments left by the previous owners. The typical window starts with a simple (maybe functioning) roller shade, which is then topped by yards of gauzy lace, which is then finished with a thick 1970's fabric curtain. Because our aesthetic is.....different, we removed drapes and, in the process, made more discoveries.

Remember that Scene in the movie The Color Purple? After Celie and Shug discover Nettie's correspondence, Mister demands a shave. And Celie sharpens the shaving blade on a long leather strop. Back. And forth. And back. And forth.
The message is clear: Celie is tempted to cut Mister's throat.

I found this old leather strop hanging behind the curtains in the upstairs bathroom, kind of dangling in the breeze. Kind of....creepy.

We also discovered some stained glass in the bay windows, both upstairs and down. They were previously hidden from view by the copious window treatments.

There is one more discovery that is SO weird and SO wonderful, it deserves it's very own blog entry. I am taking some time to consider how best to present our new-found treasure.

July 20, 2009

Floor Demo Complete

We finished ripping up plywood floors and carpet tacks at the house this weekend. All the newly exposed floors are three-inch wide, unfinished pine or fir. The photo above is of the master bedroom floors. There are some sections of the kitchen and upstairs bathroom that might need to be patched, but other than that, the floors are in good shape and are as bare as a nekid baby. Which kind of got us wondering: why would a house not have finished floors? Why are they bare? Didn't they finish floors back in the day?

Unfortunately, cat urine stains in two rooms have left us muttering angrily under our breath, 'Effing cats.' a lot. We need to look into whether we can sand out cat urine stains or if we should treat them with a 'peroxide' product prior to refinishing. Effing cats.

After crawling around on my hands and knees removing nails on Saturday, I invested in some industrial knee pads on Sunday morning (Home Depot opens at 8 am, in case you were wondering.) Ahhhhh, much better. Here's the front hallway after demo:

We plan to apply a coat or two of oil-based polyurethane, covered by a coat or two of water-based polyurethane to all the floors. The goal of this application formula is to get the warm 'amber' created by oil-based poly without the incredibly toxic fumes from an oil-based poly sitting at the surface. I've read about folks who've had success with this application, but we'll have to see what our 'floor guy' says. We're thinking about painting the bathroom floor a glossy white or off white, for the following effect (image courtesy of Desire to Inspire) What do you think?

July 15, 2009


We've decided to complete only two improvements prior to move-in: we'll install an

red gooseberriesImage via Wikipedia

alarm system and refinish all the floors. With the exception of two rooms downstairs, every floor surface is covered with either carpet or linoleum over plywood.

Yesterday, we started demolition of the floors in preparation for refinishing. We removed nasty carpets on the stairs and in one bedroom (with decomposed, powdery black padding underneath saturated with pungent cat urine); we pulled up wide rolls of linoleum and non padded area carpets in two bedrooms; and we started pulling up linoleum over plywood in the kitchen. Did you know that every time a plywood nail pops out of an original hardwood floor, an angel gets his wings?

In the process of all this work, we made many discoveries. For example, we are now the proud owners of a giant gooseberry bush, laden with plump red gooseberries, buckets of them. I'm sure a quick web search will reveal an awesome gooseberry freezer jam recipe. Unless you have a better idea.

On the first floor, we were hoping for TWO pocket doors in the living room, because we are.....greedy jerks? We removed the plastic room divider hoping to find the remnants of another set of pocket doors. Alas. No second set of pocket doors, just a solid, lovely door frame, sans pocket doors.

We also padded through the house discovering random items left by the previous owners. Does anyone read Polish? This is the cover of a book I found on the back porch. A 1978 Polish calendar? We're going to frame the cover eventually because the design is so bold and modern looking.

We are also the lucky recipients of some polish figurines. They're growing on me. Slowly. Very, very slowly. Even though they are nothing like what I would ever put in my house, I can't bear to throw them away.

I have a few more BIZARRE discoveries to share in my next post.


We closed on the house.

I slept about 4 hours last night. As a result, I am both exhausted and excited today; my heart is pumping from the extra cup of coffee, but my eyeballs are dry and bleary from lack of sleep.

We stopped by the house late last night, even though it was not yet ours, and we ran into the (very) adult children of the previous owner, still moving things out.

A couple from Poland were the last owners of the house. They bought it in 1969 and lived there continuously until the wife recently passed away. They had five children. One daughter, who still lives in the area, teared-up reminiscing about her mom. We gently promised to look after her mother's home, and she quietly thanked us.

This conversation made me think about the brevity of our lives as compared to the longevity of a well-built house. These bricks - absent a catastrophe - will stand long after I'm gone and scattered to the wind. This weekend, we start demolition. I plan to wear a respirator, helmet, gloves, knee pads, a hazmat suit, goggles and earplugs - all in an effort to delay being......scattered.

July 12, 2009

Let's Start At The Very Beginning

After many tours of many Holyoke row houses (basically every one that came on the market in the past three years), we found the one. The. Row. House.

There are plenty of reasonably priced, charming homes in Holyoke, but this is definitely the one: great light, a bevy of original details, in decent enough shape that we can move right in, and located in downtown Holyoke. We both work (in different jobs) downtown and want to walk/bike to the office. Mr. Man and I live with Morgan - our Boston Terrier. Morgan's a 8 year old rescue from Arkansas (long story I'll tell some day.) I've been his alpha bitch since he was 4.

We started this blog to document the progress of our house and gardens, and (sometimes) the progress of our fair city.