Off Center Anniversary

Exactly one year ago today, Joe and I signed the papers to buy a very old (and VERY abandoned) house on a tiny piece of earth in the middle of the USA.

We might have been a little bit crazy…but we’re not afraid to bite off way more than we can chew.

It’s probably not the most financially sound decision we’ve ever made…but it’s one of the most fun.

To be sure, there have been highs and lows, stress and excitement, weeks of monotony and several unexpected surprises… But I can honestly say I haven’t spent even a second of the last year feeling sorry that we took on this project. And I’m happy to say that we are getting pretty close to the finish line (at least on the inside).

In honor of our very first Off Center Anniversary, I dragged the fam over to the house today to recreate some of the photos that we took during those very first days after it became ours. I created a little “before & after” mosaic below, with all the “before” images in the left column and the “one year later” images in the right column.

As always, you can always click on a photo to open the full image and to to see it larger & in more detail.

That time we found a bone that was WAY too big to belong to a human, but we still kinda worried for a minute…

Because some days, you need to hash out Kindle PINS, kitchen drawers, and unspecified mammal remains…in one text thread.

*Actual text thread posted without edits. Offensive language and PIN numbers have been replaced my the word “AWESOME” to protect the not-so-innocent.

Besides, we could all use a little more awesomeness in our lives, right?

Case closed.

Lights, cabinets, action!

There has been a LOT going on at the Off Center Revival this week…

This shot was taken on Thursday, when we had crews working on cabinets, exterior painting, front porch, trim, wood floors, and electrical. 

The garage is now a gorgeous red with a maple-colored trim, which will match the red & beige trim on the exterior of the house.

All Star Floor Hardwood Flooring delivered the new hardwood so that it can “acclimate” for a week or so before they actually lay it.

This is just part of the wood they brought. Although it took us awhile to accept this fact…the majority of the downstairs floors cannot be saved and will be replaced. So it’s a lot of wood.

Remember the front porch that we uncovered last year? The one that was falling away from the house but we desperately wanted to save?

Happily, it can be saved. They finished shoring it up this week. It will be re-coated with a stucco-like finish, then painted to (hopefully) look like new.

Some poor guy had to spend most of his day in this little space placing and securing these piers about every two feet. Sadly, there was not a suitcase of cash or gold bars under there…but we did think for a minute that we found a human bone. I’ll save that little story for another day… 

Our electrician and his crew have been busy putting together putting up fixtures. I have to say…the night we were able to walk in and flip on a light may have been the biggest “wow” moment in the house so far.

As far as these guys are concerned, having lights in the “haunted mansion” is nothing short of a miracle.

Scroll through the slideshow below for a peek at some of our lighting. They are still working upstairs and there’s one more big fixture that goes in the kitchen, so I’ll post more on lights when they finish.

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Another pretty big “wow” factor this week was cabinet installation.

Jake and his team from Wilson Custom Cabinets are installing kitchen cabinets, as well as the bar cabinet and upstairs master vanity. 

Scroll through the “before” and “after” slideshow below to see the beautiful work they’ve done in the kitchen (minus the master vanity – there still aren’t lights in there so it’s impossible to photograph). The cabinets will be painted, and they still need to install upper open shelving between the back door and window.

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Trim work is in progress, and we have the following folks lined up over the next month or so:

  1. Exterior painting and trim
  2. Hardwood floors
  3. Tile
  4. Plumbing
  5. Landscaping

Don’t look now, but it looks like we may actually get to live in this thing someday!

Roof, brick, electric

This week, it’s been all about the roof, brick, & electric – nothing too sexy, but all pretty important.

First up is the roof. The roof over the kitchen/bathroom bump-out and the south bay window needed to be replaced, so we went with metal with a copper look. In about 5-10 years, the roof on the main part of the house will need to be replaced and we will use the same material.

Looking out onto the kitchen roof, from the middle upstairs bedroom.

Working on the roof over the south bay window.

At the same time, we’ve had another crew working on prepping the interior brick. All of the exterior walls are 14-inch thick solid brick, and we’ve decided to keep most of it exposed. Some of it will be painted, but other walls will simply be sealed. So they are working on cleaning up the brick to get it ready to paint/seal.

South wall of the living room. The fireplace brick will be exposed and sealed, and the remainder will be painted a gray/greige.  We’re thinking about going with Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter.

Just a little pile of mortar dust (is that what you call it?) on the upstairs landing.

Upstairs landing, east wall. This will remained exposed, sealed brick and will carry into the master bedroom.

The big project coming up is electrical, which they’ve been chipping away at for a few weeks, but are going to hit pretty hard this week. They’ve buried the service line in the back yard, and placed the panel in the basement. All of the electrical boxes are set…so this week will be wire-pulling time!

Kitchen ceiling. There will be a chandelier over the island (we’re thinking it will be the Bistro Globe light from RH, but we haven’t purchased yet) and some can lights around the room.

Dining room. There will be two Mia Faceted-Crystal Chandeliers over the dining tables (these have been purchased), and a couple of can lights over the doorways.

Electrical boxes on the wall between the entry & living room. 

After electrical is done (hopefully by middle-end of this week…fingers crossed), we’ll get inspections done, then our sheet rock and hardwood floor repair teams are in the queue. We also met with our cabinet guy on Friday, and basically finalized our design there. He’ll be doing the kitchen cabinets, bar cabinet under the stairs, and our master bathroom vanity.

Slow. And. Steady.


It’s not about what it IS, it’s about what it can BECOME. – Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)


In that spirit, we’ve put together a little slideshow with highlights of what the Off Center Revival has become since June.


From our family to yours, here’s hoping 2017 becomes your best year yet!

About a door…

So there’s this door.

Actually, two of them.

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We’re pretty sure they are the original doors from when the house was built in 1883.  And they’re gorgeous.

When we bought the house, one door had a clear glass pane and the other was red. We think the red glass was original, and have heard lots of different stories/explanations about the significance of red (or otherwise colorful) glass in Victorian homes.



The clear glass pane broke when the workers took down the porch, and – although we LOVE the red transom (and decided to keep it), we weren’t in love with red glass in the doors. So our window guy installed some textured glass instead.

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We love it.  And we love the potential we see in these doors.

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Can’t wait to get them refinished.


To the window, to the wall

So two big things have been going on at the Off Center Revival:

  1. Windows
  2. Walls

(Did the post title give it away?)

Let’s start with the windows…

I’ll admit – I was skeptical about the windows. This is a debate that has raged with Joe and I since we lived in the 100-year-old Craftsman. He insisted on restoration. I insisted on replacing…

Enter Scott.

Scott is a window restoration craftsman who owns his own company, Old Time Window Repair & Restoration (he’s so old-timey he doesn’t have a website; but he did speak at the Old House Expo in KC last spring -which is pretty legit).

Not every window in the house was able to be restored. The upstairs bay had already been replaced. And the windows in the kitchen and downstairs bath will be downsized and replaced. But Scott was able to take the other 14 windows in the house and make them like new again.

Seriously, you guys. These windows seemed like complete garbage. But 133 years later, they open and close like new. Even Bobby is impressed.

The downstairs bay window and upstairs window (above the door). Like new!

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They basically spent an entire evening opening the window, climbing out the window, closing the window, opening the window, climbing in the window, closing the window…

Seriously – once we get the sills and trim painted and refinished…they are going to be beautiful.

I don’t say this often so listen carefully… I’m taking a deep breath…

Joe was right. I was wrong.

Now moving on to the walls…


Alan (also known as the basement guy and the header guy) is back and working on interior carpentry. They’re pretty much done with the upstairs at this point. And I have to say, it’s really, really, REALLY exciting to see our two-dimensional floor plan come to life.

As usual, it’s really difficult to capture in photographs. But I’ll try to walk you through it (referring back to our floor plans may help)…


This is the master bedroom. We’ve dropped a wall across the length of the room (about 20 feet) to create a 6 x 8  walk-in closet and a 6 x 12 master bathroom. Here, you see the closet door opening (it will be a pocket door) and the studs for the wall.


Another look at the doorway to the master closet. Because of the shape of the room, I couldn’t get a good pic showing where the bathroom door will be…


…but I did get to stand at the far wall and take a picture into what will be the bathroom (foreground) and closet (background). Eventually, my big tiled shower will be sitting right where that saw is.


This is the existing upstairs bedroom, on the northwest corner of the house. It will be the boys’ bathroom, including a laundry closet. The 3×5 laundry closet is framed in here. The plan is to stack our front loaders, install shelving and perhaps a cabinet/countertop, and bifold doors. Directly to the left will be a 5-foot shower for the boys. Their toilet and double vanity will be on the opposite wall.


Looking back into the bathroom/laundry, from the middle bedroom.


The hardest thing to photograph is the boys’ bedroom closets. Basically, we are borrowing about 3 feet from one of the bedrooms to add to the boys’ closets. This will create a small walk-in closet (roughly 5 1/2 feet square) for each bedroom. They are started but not quite complete in this picture.

Now all that’s left to complete, on the interior carpentry side, is the kitchen floor and walls.

Once that’s done, we’ve got HVAC, electric, and plumbing contractors ready to go…


Stay thirsty, my friends.



Off Center crowdsourcing: landscaping edition

So what do you do to keep your sanity when you’re a generally impatient person who has spent a month in “hurry up and wait” mode?

*Waiting on the framing and window guys to get started, waiting on final demo & brick work, waiting on electrical bids, waiting on HVAC guys to call us back (no one is crazy enough to want this HVAC job!)…*

You work on landscaping plans!

Never mind that landscaping literally the last thing we’ll do…that it may be a year before we get to it…that – when we do get to it – the budget will probably be so shot we can only afford a bucket full of grass seed…

It’s fun to dream about summer nights on the patio, or fall evenings gathered around the fire pit…NOT worrying about things like framers and electrical bids and who’s going to do the HVAC work on the house…while the kids play in the yard.

Joe and I have spent a couple of weeks poring over the five beautiful landscaping concepts designed for us by George Hayes at Sticks and Stones Outdoor Living and Landscape Co. We’ve got some pretty clear ideas about what we want, which elements we like and which ones we don’t, and the big changes we want to make to our favorite concept.

But before we send our final feedback to George, we thought we’d share the plans to see if any of our Off Center followers have ideas we haven’t thought of or lessons learned from their own outdoor renovations.

As always, just click on one of the pics below to open a slideshow and enlarge the images.

At first glance, they are a little overwhelming. The drawings aren’t all oriented the same way, but I did orient the images the same way (front of the house on bottom) and they are well-labeled. So you can generally find the house with the front porch and garage in back. The misshapen circles are trees. Each design incorporates parking, walkways, and planting beds. And each concept has a patio with tables/chairs, an outdoor kitchen (usually with a bar island and grill island), and a fire pit. Some have a garden.*

Keep in mind that we’re working on a “master plan” here that will likely be phased in over a few years or more. It’s likely we won’t have the budget to do everything at once and may not want to anyway since our family and needs will continue to change over the next 10-15 years. We have to think not only about what we need right now (a place for our grill and table and a space for the kids to play) but also what we may want 10 years from now (an outdoor kitchen and pretty plants).

So what do you think? What do you love? What would you change? What are the “need to have” versus “nice to have” elements? What do you wish you would have thought of when you planned your outdoor space?

And also…can you talk Joe into adding a pool to the long-term plan? Because he won’t budge on that one…

*Post edited with an updated design description for my friend Lindsay, who was worried at first that we were putting big beach umbrellas all over our yard.

Brick and headers

So demolition is done, the basement is cleaned up and shored up, and we’ve got a garage and a floor plan.

What’s next?

Brick work and headers.

We’ve got an incredible brick guy* who’s been working with his crew since last week. There’s a lot of brick work to be done, on both the exterior and interior. The brick was probably what intimidated us most about buying the house initially, but consultation with an engineer and another brick guy (not the one repairing our house) reassured us that – while it needs to be fixed and wasn’t super-safe (no one wants a brick to fall on their head), it is mostly cosmetic and not structural.

So they have been steadily working on repairing and replacing bricks, and filling gaps and cracks all around the house.

IMG_0402You can see some of the still-wet repair work here, in the cracks around the master bedroom window.

More repair work, before (left) and after (right). Look above the door, below the window.

The south side of the house has always been particularly problematic, and when the basement guy* took 5 inches of “swag” out of the house, the problem areas really started crumbling. No matter – it needed to be deconstructed anyway, so the crumbling walls just meant that some of the demo work was done naturally. So this particular section is being rebuilt to some degree. It won’t look perfect when it’s done, but it will look good and old. If we wanted a perfect house, we’d build it.

Top left: Bedroom window before demo. Top right, middle left, and middle right: bedroom window after the house was jacked up and reinforced, bricks falling everywhere (including through the window pane). Bottom left & right: Bedroom windows now, as they work to repair and rebuild it. As always, click on an image to make it larger.

Brick repair, exterior view. These guys* are my heroes right now!

While all that brick work is happening, our trusty basement guy,* Alan, has worked his way up to the first floor and is installing some new headers. One in the large doorway between the living and dining rooms, another over the living room bay window.


Super back-lit (sorry!) pic of the header going in over the living room bay window.


Getting ready to put in the header between the living room and dining room.


Remember this?

And then there’s the brick wall between the kitchen and dining room that we thought we couldn’t remove, then uncovered and decided we needed to remove. So Alan and his crew are carefully deconstructing this wall – including taking down a chimney – and placing a steel header to create a (roughly) 9-foot opening between the dining and kitchen. Once this is done, the brick guys* will come back in and finish the brick work in the kitchen. Then the demo guys* can come in and finish taking down the framing in the ceiling of the kitchen, which they left up because they were seriously worried the whole kitchen might collapse if they took it down before the brick repair.

The start of the work on the wall between the kitchen and dining room. You can see the new header where the opening will be. Right now, it seems a bit…perilous.

Does your head hurt yet?

Yep. Mine, too.

But if we can get through this part, we’re hoping mostly sure the house won’t fall down.

*I’m sure there are actual, official names for these professions, but I don’t know them. So I affectionately refer to our people as the “basement guy,” “brick guy,” “garage guy”… You get the idea. The feminist in me is not-so-secretly hoping for a construction “girl” of some sort to come along at some point… At any rate, all the “guys” and “girls” will be invited to the first Off Center Party and I hope they will drink heavily. They deserve it.