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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Shedding a little light on the subject…

The moment I knew we needed help from a designer was the moment we started trying to put together a lighting plan. Not only did we have to think about how much light we wanted/needed, but also where we wanted lights placed, switch placements, dimmers…and fixtures. I actually sort of enjoy the design side of things and I don’t think I have a horrible eye, so I probably could have problem-solved a room or two on my own. But an entire house was just too much. And lights in a house felt a little bit like shoes for an outfit…it seems like a small detail, but can make or break the whole thing.

Sadly, there really weren’t any cool, save-able fixtures in the house when we bought it. And the electrical had to be completely redone. We were starting completely from scratch.

So lighting was one of the first things our designer, Erin McKenna, jumped in to help with. And let me tell you, she was a lifesaver. I’ve posted several posts and pics with our light fixtures, but haven’t ever done a specific post about lights yet. And lately it seems I’ve had a lot of folks asking questions about our lighting (especially the chandeliers you can now see from the street). So here is a round-up of all the fixtures (with links) we chose for the house, expertly installed by our awesome electrician, Owen of Minutemen Services.

Entry

This French beaded chandelier is probably the most “period” style fixture in the house. In fact, many folks who have seen it have asked if it were original. I was a little unsure of this one initially – it’s a little bit “traditional” for me. I tend to gravitate more toward industrial and/or modern design. But I love the look in the entry and the burnished brass is perfect.

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Over the bar, we have a crystal flush mount fixture. We also used this same fixture in the downstairs bath. It fits perfectly, and I love how it reflects flecks of light. I’m thinking about replacing the basic bulbs with pink or another color just to add something fun. We’ll add crystal knobs to the bar to mimic the crystal in the fixture.

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Dining Room

We chose a pair of crystal chandeliers (which match the flushmount lights under the bar and in the downstairs bath) for the dining area. The table will be centered underneath them. I love the drama of the two and how the light reflects, especially when it’s dark. We’ve got these on a dimmer, which will will be a fun way to control the “mood” of the space.

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Kitchen

The globe chandelier was definitely a more industrial, non-traditional choice for the kitchen. Joe was a little on the fence about this one at first, but I think it’s grown on him. I love it (industrial!) and think it will be even more perfect once we’ve got our tile done and appliances installed…next week (sneak peek of the kitchen tile & trim in the second pic)!

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Bathrooms

Starting with the downstairs bath…this is a small, full bath but we wanted it to have a sort of old-world, powder room feel. The ceiling light is the same crystal flush mount that is over the bar, and we mounted a brushed brass single tube sconce on the brick wall (this will be next to a mirror hung over a pedestal sink).

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The boys’ bathroom has pretty simple fixtures. We chose a chrome double tube sconce hung horizontally over the mirror, and a simple schoolhouse light on the ceiling. Because these are in the boys’ bath, they are pretty cheap and I can’t even remember where we ended up getting them…probably Wayfair or Houzz.

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In the master bath, our original plan (as pictured) was 3 double tube sconces, with 2 mirrored medicine cabinets centered over the sinks. As I’ve already posted, we didn’t get the cabinets and countertops designed properly for that (totally our fault), so the center sconce will go and there will be one large mirror between the two that are left. The ceiling fixture is silver with seashell-like glass circles.

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Upstairs hall

One of my favorite light fixtures in the house is the “explosion” chandelier in the upstairs landing. This will be my primary office space and a general work/reading area for the family. We’ll probably follow the style of this light with a little more mod decor in that area.

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In the hallway, we just did a couple of simple single sconces with linen shades. Right now, only one has a shade on it because the other will get smacked with the attic door…and that’s still in fairly regular use at this point.

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Master bedroom

Last but not least…the master bedroom. We mostly did recessed lighting in that space, but we did install a pair of brushed brass swing-arm sconces. The bed will be in the window, so these lights will serve as bedside lamps. These are actually a knock-off of the more expensive fixture our designer suggested, and I sort of hate the shades (but plan on replacing them…maybe with black linen).

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If you’re wondering about the boys’ bedrooms and the downstairs bedroom/playroom, they just get basic ceiling fans with light kits. Those were backordered and just came in, so no pictures. But they’re not that exciting anyway.

Trim work is wrapping up and tile is being laid right now. Next week, it’s plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware installation, and clean-up in preparation for hardwood floors refinishing the week after.

We’re almost there…

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.

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!

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!

WALLS!

YOU! GUYS!

WE HAVE WALLS!!!!!!!


KITCHEN WALLS!

 


DINING ROOM WALLS!

 


ENTRY WALLS!

 


LIVING ROOM WALLS!

 


SHOWER WALLS!

 


BEDROOM WALLS!

 


BAR WALLS!

 


THEY EVEN PUT WALLS ON THE CEILING!