Off Center Landscaping 

Today started off like any other ordinary day.

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But it wasn’t an ordinary day.

It was LANDSCAPING DEMO DAY!

img_9785When these guys rolled up with a truck loaded up with GIANT rocks…I knew they weren’t screwing around. And I moved my car. 

I took a round of pics around 8 this morning, before Travis and his crew from Stonescapes showed up. Then I took another round of pics after they left. You can scroll through the slideshow below to see the “before” and “after” pics from today.

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Travis said it looked like a bomb went off in our yard.

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Charlie came home from school and said it looked like a war zone.

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I say it looks like progress.

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Thrifting

It’s been one of those weeks.

Nothing major. Just the kind of week that sometimes bubbles up when you have a big, full life and a happy, active family. We’ve experienced a lot of transition in a short amount of time. In addition to our move, I started my new job, which means I’ll travel more but am also home more. We’re all trying to figure out the rhythm of life – and draw some physical and virtual boundaries – when Mom offices at home. The kids transitioned to their new school/preschool classrooms, which has been awesome.  But with a new school year and new mixes of classmates, a few social issues have come up for them which has required a little extra parenting. On top of that, this week handed us a nice trifecta of weird-but-gross kid stuff – a skin infection, head lice, and strep throat. Charlie celebrated a birthday, which meant treats & planning for 3 different occasions – including his very first slumber party. And Joe was out of town for a conference, which meant I was on my own for most of this fun.

Small things in the scheme of things. Wonderful things in the scheme of things. But I’m not gonna lie…by Friday night, I was exhausted.

And yesterday, I was more than ready for a little solitude and was craving a creative outlet, so I decided to head to the Kansas City West Bottoms all by myself for some vintage treasure hunting.

(For those of you who aren’t from the KC area – the West Bottoms is a historic district in the river bottoms. The first weekend of each month, stores open up with all sorts of art and vintage/antique/repurposed treasures. It’s worth checking out, but I digress…)

In addition to sort of selfishly just wanting a day to be alone and think and create, I also had some clear objectives. I know I’ve mentioned before that I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up this summer. I sort of went all KonMari* when we moved – we sold or donated a LOT of stuff. So less stuff + bigger house = all sorts of empty spaces that I’ve been contemplating. And as of Friday, we still hadn’t hung a single thing on the walls (tht has since changed) and the empty-ness and the high ceilings was getting to me. It was feeling a little less like “home” and a little more like a gymnasium.

Plus, stuff in the West Bottoms is old, so it’s cheap. And cheap is good when you’re raising 3 little boys and trying to renovate a home on a budget.

So I was on a mission. Maybe it was just good luck.  Maybe it was because I knew exactly what I was looking for. Or maybe the Universe just knew I was in desperate need of a win.  But I can say with confidence – Mission Accomplished!

Here are a few of my favorite finds (as always, you can click on a pic to enlarge)…

The first thing I stumbled upon was this great mid-century chair at Hello Sailor. I’d been looking for a small-ish chair to put on my side of the bed in place of a bedside table. I’d been looking at some similar style chairs online, but couldn’t find one that was quite right. The upholstery on this one coordinates with our wall color, and the wood tone matches our bedroom set almost perfectly. And it’s a legit Goldlocke chair, with a seal and all.

Lest you think I’m some sort of savvy vintage shopper, I didn’t know this chair was a “Goldlocke” until after I bought it and the saleswoman pointed it out to me..then I had to Google it.

Next, also at Hello Sailor, I found this pair of high-back velvet tufted Broyhill chairs. I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted them and was sort of hemming and hawing about them. Until I asked the vendor how much she wanted for them and she told me $40 FOR THE PAIR. Sold!

img_8923Who is this dirty-faced child and where is his mother?

I’m thinking these will “live” in the entry. Joe and I have had quite the debate about our old piano (that’s a post for another day), but ultimately I think he’s going to win and the piano will find a home in our entry, across from the bar, with these chairs on each side.

Sort of a 1920s piano bar vibe…can you picture it?

Next up…I think I found my home decor spirit animal at Bella Patina.  I’ve been following Nova Engle (@green.nova) on Instagram for awhile, and finally got a chance to shop her booth this weekend. I snagged a couple of cool basket vases filled with greenery.

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But even better, I purchased some Nova Engle’s original art  – a pair of abstract green & black canvases.  Those found a home on the curved wall in the dining room along with another West Bottoms find – a vintage green leather chair from Top Hat Mercantile.

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I also grabbed a couple of smaller accessories. Keeping with my obsessed-with-green theme, I found a fun (and super-cheap) piece of pottery at Top Hat Mercantile (right next to the green chair).  For now, it has a home on the dining room buffet, underneath the gallery wall we created with framed wallpaper scraps from the house before demo.

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And last but not least…a $9 bowl of wooden fruit. I have no idea where I’m going to put it, but for now it’s on the side table in the living room, next to the sectional.

img_8944There’s that little boy again. His Mom finally cleaned him up.

img_8958I have no idea why I love it, but I love it.

 

And now our house feels just a bit more like our home.

 

*In short, the KonMari method involves holding each of your belongings -literally holding it…or hugging it – and deciding whether to keep it or not based on how it makes you feel.  If it “sparks joy” you keep it. If not, you get rid of it.  Joe has teased me quite a bit about this, and I will admit I did not literally hold or hug everything  I own, but the general principal is a pretty good one. Surround yourself with things you love. And I will admit that I feel much more clear-headed without all that “stuff” everywhere…and my house is a lot easier to clean, too!

 

 

Inside out

So…we moved.

FullSizeRenderAll My Sons did a great job moving us…and agreed that it would be easier to just carry the trampoline a few blocks than to try to disassemble, move, and reassemble it.  

But just because we unpacked and the blog went silent for a month doesn’t mean the house is “done” (far from it). It just means it’s done…enough.

It also means we went on vacation and stopped thinking about the house for a couple of weeks, which was actually wonderful.

IMG_0453IMG_0350The beach is our happy place.

But now it’s back to reality…

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…and it’s time to get the exterior work across the finish line.

There’s still plenty to do on the interior, but interior construction is over. So everything interior is on the design side at this point. Design will go slowly, and I’m OK with that. I don’t want to rush… I read Marie Kondo’s books this summer and – although Joe thinks I’ve lost my mind – I’ve gone all KonMari on our space. We’ve spent too much time and money to fill this house with things that don’t bring us joy.  And, frankly, we need to wait for the piggy bank to fill back up (side note – I changed jobs this summer and was technically unemployed for a bit).  So I’m actually enjoying a moment of minimalism. But those are all posts for another day…

For now, we’re focused cleaning up the exterior brick, repairing some of the trim and areas around the windows, and painting the trim (the paint work already done on the top right corner of the photo above is a sneak peek of what it will all look like when it’s done).

The trim is metal, so we have a very talented metal worker custom-making new metal pieces to match the old. As those pieces get made, our exterior guy, David, is placing them on the house.

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David has also been here a few days a week prepping, cleaning, repairing, and getting the brick and trim surfaces water-tight and ready for paint. He’s having to fill in a lot of gaps and rebuild some of the stone window sills. It’s slow, tedious work. But it’s coming along.

We’ve also had our gutter guy, Travis, doing his thing with the gutters and downspouts.  Despite having a relatively new roof, there were about 3-4 spots where water was coming in the house. Amazingly, Travis fixed them all (no more downpours in my bedroom!). He also put on some pretty snazzy copper-finish downspouts.

Alan came back to finish out some trim on the windows we had to re-size and replace in the kitchen and downstairs bath. When we were trying to decide what on earth we were going to do with the blank space left at the bottom of the new windows, I came with the idea of using some of the scraps of tin tiles that we pulled off of the upstairs ceiling. Alan did just that, and I think it is going to look really cool when painted. And I love that we were able to keep a little bit of the house’s history.

You can click through the slideshow below to see how he cut and fit the tile pieces in…including a close-up and a pic of the nearly-destroyed ceiling that we pulled the tiles from.

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We’re hoping that the bulk of this work is done in a month or so, then we can move on to getting the yard whipped into shape.

We’ve got our work cut out for us.

Onward!

 

Unpacked

As moving week/weekend winds down, I’m kind of feeling all the feels. 

We still have a long way to go…but it feels pretty surreal to be (almost) unpacked and finally living in the space we dreamed about for over 2 years. 

My body is tired, but my heart is filled with gratitude for the friends and family who watched the boys during moving week, all the folks who have already brought food & wine & friendship to our new space, and – most of all – for my husband who has an uncanny knack for seeing hope and possibility everywhere…even an abandoned old house in the middle of northwest Missouri. 

Cheers to new beginnings, friends!

Welcome home 

Our housekeeper and friend, Kim, and her husband Mark gave the Off Center Revival it’s first top-to-bottom cleaning in awhile, so Joe and I decided to take a little quiet walk through before moving day chaos descends on us tomorrow.

It’s amazing what a good cleaning and a few moments of peace and quiet can do for the soul.

No time to get too fussy and edit photos – movers arrive first thing in the morning – but I’m too excited NOT to share a few (unedited) snaps of the space.

But my favorite is our very first housewarming gift…a perfect little note from Kim & Mark.

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Welcome home.

The whole staircase

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase” – Martin Luther King, Jr

Today, we finally got to see the whole staircase. 




It’s been a LOOONG time (at least a decade or two…maybe longer) since these stairs have been refinished, cleaned up, and touched up. This was the very last thing our trim carpenter, Keith (and his wonderful wife Karen) did for us. 

It’s basically the woodworker’s version of a mic drop. 

3 sleeps ’til moving day.

Floors, part 3

The downstairs floors are finished.

We deliberated over a color for days, but ultimately went with Dark Walnut. It’s perfect.

We’re moving in next week, people.


Floors, Part 2

Upstairs hardwood floors during sanding. 

I’ve said many times before, the woodwork was one of the main things that sold me on this house. But by “woodwork” I mean the trim – baseboards, door casings & headers… Truth is, I was never too sure about the floors. We knew we had hardwood everywhere, but with the house abandoned for almost 10 years they were so dirty (and some covered up with carpet) that it was hard to see what was there.

As with everything, though, we wanted to save what we could and we really thought we’d be able to save all the wood floors. Sadly, the downstairs wood couldn’t be saved (you can read Floors, part 1 for more on that). But, luckily, the upstairs floors were salvageable.

One big surprise about the house was what good condition the upstairs floors were in. It’s really astonishing given the stories we’ve heard (and evidence we found) about the roof leaking for years (decades?), to the point that the ceiling was almost totally rotted out and you could see daylight through the ceiling & roof.

IMG_9358These were the ceilings in the upstairs landing when we bought the house. Just a little reminder of how much water had come in…we also had a nice family of raccoons living up there, too.

Somehow, these old pine floors survived all that and, just last week, All Star Hardwood Flooring worked some serious magic and brought them back to life.

Here are a few “before” pics I took, the day before they came. The floors were about as clean as they’d been since we bought the house. So this was truly a best-case “before” photo shoot.

And now, the “after” shots. Because pine can get splotchy when stained, we went with a natural finish which meant we didn’t get to pick a color. The finish just brought out the natural tones and variation in the wood. So it is a little more amber in some places, more yellow in others, and more brown in some spots.

Honestly, it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would. And I love it even more than I thought I would.

As I write this, they are sanding the downstairs hardwoods which are new oak floors and will be stained a medium-dark brown. I’m convinced they’ll be showstoppers, too, but won’t have nearly the personality of the upstairs floors.

Downstairs floors are set to be done early next week. Then, as far as interior stuff goes, we’ll be down to finish trim, a final punch list, and a top-to-bottom cleaning.

We scheduled movers, but I’m not going to share the date yet for fear of jinxing it.

I’m not superstitious, but not taking any chances.

Onward.

Bringing the house back to life…one baseboard at a time

One of the things that made me fall in love with this house – and ultimately go along with Joe’s hair-brained scheme to buy it – was the woodwork. It is beautiful, mostly unpainted, and full of character. Much of it is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When we bought the house, we knew we wanted to save as much of it as possible (chips and all).  We also knew it would take a special kind of trim carpenter to “get” our vision for the project, and have the skill to bring the old woodwork back to life while creating new pieces that look like they could have been there all along. We found that in Keith, a retired wood shop teacher from a neighboring small town.

After Keith basically worked magic when he refinished our doors, we knew he was the one we wanted to do the rest of the woodwork and trim. Although he doesn’t fancy himself a “trim carpenter” per se, he agreed to become ours (with a little coaxing).

Once the walls went back up at the house, I was extremely excited. But I was also a little anxious that in gutting the house, we had also gutted the character. As much as I love some of our new finishes, I didn’t want a new house (as I’ve said at least a thousand times, if I wanted a new house I would have built one…and it would have been faster and cheaper). But once Keith started putting the old trim back up – and even creating new pieces – that anxiety went away. We have been so lucky to find so many talented folks to help us with this house, but Keith is the one who brought it back to life.

First the old stuff.  This all got pulled off the wall during demo. Keith has cleaned it back up and pieced it back together and figured out how to fill in strange gaps and weird angles. It’s almost 140 years old, and it is chippy and full of character and I just love it all. As usual, you can just click on any pic below to view it larger.

 

And the new stuff. Most of the bedrooms either had no trim (or rotted, totally not-full-of-character boards nailed to the wall). There was a piece that needed to be replaced in the dining room and a bar cabinet that needed to be trimmed out and stained to look as built-in as possible. And, of course, we added two bathrooms and a large opening to the kitchen. So there was lots of trim that needed to be created. Two of the most “WOW” moments for me were:

  1. When I saw the trim Keith created for the large opening between the dining rom and kitchen. That was totally his idea, and I think it looks like it could have been here 134 years ago.
  2. When I saw how he trimmed out the bay window in our bedroom. It is simple white trim and may not look like a “WOW” moment to you, but that window was an ugly MESS when he started…and he made it beautiful.

So, in addition to being a heck of a nice guy and extremely skilled, I’m now convinced Keith is an artist.

Cheers to you, Keith.

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