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!

 

 

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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.

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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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.

Cabinets & countertops

Things have been moving and shaking at the OCR this week. The big news – the cabinets are painted and the countertops are installed!

In the kitchen, we went with Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray on the cabinets. After Wilson Custom Cabinets built and installed these beauties, the super-talented Kara Hamberlin painted them for us. The counters are allen + roth Frosted Wind – quartz with a marble-look. We couldn’t be more thrilled.  Obviously, there is some touch-up paint and trim work to be done. The floor will be a dark gray, slate-look ceramic tile with stainless steel appliances and a big vent hood in front of the west window (the one next to the back door). And we have a glass mosaic backsplash tile along the south wall. So the overall look of the kitchen is still going to change a lot…but it’s starting to come together.


The next not-so-big decision is cabinet hardware. We know we’re going to go with a brushed brass/bronze look and I think we’ve settled on bar pulls…maybe some knobs, too. We got some samples from Locks & Pulls, and we’ve spent days moving them around in different places in different light so we can make our final decision. And who knew there was so much to think about with cabinet hardware… Pulls? Knobs? Finish? Size? Style? Price?

We’re leaning toward a combination of the knob and pull on the bottom (from the Lewis Dolin Hardware round bar series). The top right pull (made by Liberty) is a little cheaper and matches the kitchen faucet a bit more closely…but the finish just is just a little more flat. The hex-shaped pull is for size only…we’re sticking with the round shape, I think.

This isn’t a big kitchen…it ended up only about 12 x 12. So we spent a lot of time wanting an island but angsting over whether we had room. Ultimately, we Tetris-ed it all in, and I think we ended up with a good design and flow. So far, it doesn’t feel crowded at all. Fingers cross that it doesn’t suddenly close in on us once the appliances are installed…

We also finished cabinets and countertops for the master vanity. We have some fun marble tile picked out for the floor and shower wall, so we kept the vanity pretty simple. The paint is Benjamin Moore White Dove, and the counter is a simple white quartz (allen+ roth Powderhorn). The fixtures in here will be chrome. The only issue we found is that the lights and sinks (and potential mirror placement) don’t *quite* work. If we kept it as-is, the mirrored medicine cabinets wouldn’t be centered over the sinks. So we’ll be taking out the middle sconce and going with one large mirror. It’s a small problem, but an annoying one. I blame the general contractor.*

I guess we could just call it…the Off Center Vanity?

Last but not least is the built-in bar under the stairs. We went with the same counters as we used in the kitchen and stained the cabinetry to try to at least come close to matching the woodwork and floors in that space, so it will at least have a quasi-built-in look. We’ll probably just do some old-school crystal knobs here.

So that’s where we are right now… the trim carpenter is working as we speak, which is totally bringing the space to life (I’ll be posting about that soon). Tile starts next week, followed immediately by plumbing (running water!). Then it’s refinishing the floors…and a final punch list…

We just might get to have a drink at that bar on the 4th of July!

Onward!

*The general contractor is Joe, who is awesome but not detail-oriented. 

Floors, part 1

There are a lot of things we haven’t been able to save in this house, but we’ve always tried to repair and restore rather than replace.

When we bought the house and pulled up the carpet, we thought the downstairs hardwood floors could be saved. But then we learned just how dry and brittle they were…and that there was no subfloor underneath them. In the dining room, the floors started to break in some spots, and we had to cut some holes in them to do the basement work.

So we realized we’d have to replace the dining room floors…

And then we realized we’d have to replace the living room floors, too…

But we thought the entry floors could be saved…until we found out that there were hundreds of nails that had been driven into them over the years – probably to silence squeaky boards. Driving the nails down deeper split the boards…pulling the nails up split the boards…

So we realized we’d have to replace the floors in the entry and downstairs bedroom/gameroom, too.

So that’s how we ended up with all new oak hardwood floors downstairs.*

It wasn’t exactly what we had planned, but they sure are gonna be pretty.

*This is the unfinished hardwood flooring. It will be stained to match the woodwork and mimic the old hardwoods. The stairs and upstairs hardwoods will stay original and be refinished.

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!

Paint preview 

The sun is finally shining at the Off Center Revival!


Almost two weeks of rain slowed down the drywall process a bit (the mud was SLOOOOOW to dry) but, overall, things are moving along.

With walls finished, the interior painting has begun…

And let me tell you, this house is taking a LOT of paint.

Sherwin Williams has basically been my second home lately. I’m not sure if they’re sick of me or just happy to see dollar signs when I walk in the door (I lost count of paint & primer purchases at about the 50 gallon mark…).

So far, they’ve sprayed all the primer and have painted all the ceilings and most of the brick that will be painted. Today, they starting spraying/rolling the walls. Here’s a little sneak peak of where things were this afternoon.

Living room and dining rooms ceilings and walls are the same color – a light gray/greige. Although you can’t see it here, I really like the way it looks against the wood trim.

Dining room looking into the kitchen. Paint is still wet so looks a little streaky.

The kitchen walls are a creamy white. I sort of love the rustic-y vibe of the brick with just two coats, so I think we’ll keep it like this. Is rustic-y a word?

Downstairs bathroom, which is notoriously difficult to photograph. Here you can see the exposed brick against the smoky gray walls and ceiling, Once we have the marble-look tile on the wall and brass fixtures, this tiny bathroom may end up being my favorite room.

The boys’ bathroom with more rustic-y painted brick. The shower enclosure will be trimmed out with white subway tile.

Master bedroom. The ceiling is a sandy linen color, the brick will remain exposed, and this wall will be a dark slate blue-gray.

I don’t want to jinx us, but things should really start moving along in the next few weeks. Painters should be done (or nearly done) by Monday. The trim carpenter has started his work, and early next week the cabinets will be set, light fixtures installed, and dining room floor laid. And we have another crew working on the outside, painting the garage and fixing some gutter issues. Front porch and trim work should begin in the next week or two.

Stay tuned!