I follow several of my favorite HGTV/DIY shows on Facebook and Instagram, but never in a million years did I ever expect I’d have an opportunity to interact with one of them. Well that is exactly what happened at 11:20 pm Monday night. Last June, Nicole Curtis @rehabaddict posted a fundraiser event on her page to raise money in honor of Tessa, the daughter of one of her construction crew members (Bobby) who lost her battle with cancer at age 9 in 2017. Love, Team Tessa proceeds go towards building projects for families going through similar battles. I’ve bought a t-shirt in the past, but last year anyone donating $150 or more would receive a 30-minute Zoom with Nicole. SOLD! I was in the throws of restoring Ms. Inez so of course I wanted to pick the brain of a woman who inspired me to want to restore old houses.
Needless to say she underestimated her fan base. I can only imagine the 1000s of responses she received, but my turn in the cue finally came up. I got an email from her assistant stating she had times Monday night at 10:40 and 11:20 and in the afternoon on Thursday. I responded that if still available, I’d take the 11:20, but I also sent exterior before and after pics of Ms. Inez and shared a link to my Restoration Complete post letting her know if the spot was gone it was OK to take me off the list since my project was complete. About an hour later I got a response “Gorgeous!!!!! We are adding you to the 11:20 est tonight. Congrats on the Sales!!! I was emailed the link and at 11:20 I had one of the best 30 minute conversations of life. I can ride this high for the rest of the year.
The 30-minutes went by so fast. She actually took time prior to go through my post. She admired the restoration of the front door knob and knew instantly the house’s age because of that hardware. I now can stop beating myself up over taking a year to complete my flip. Her first flip, where she did most of the work herself, prior to having a crew, took her five years! One of her houses in Detroit took over two years, primarily because she wouldn’t compromise on finding the right sized salvage door for the entry. I totally related to that. She found the door at Columbus Architectural Salvage, a store I used to find the last missing interior door at my house and the living room closet door at the flip. We talked about windows, wood vs. vinyl, and I shared how I was able to find a craftsman that made my diamond window. She said sometime she’s in need of people that can make wood windows, so I shared my contact (Tim Jansen, Cincinnati Wood Products) with her in chat.
She was so down to earth and so true to the persona you see on her show. We were just two women talking about our love of restoring old houses. I’m grinning ear to ear just writing this. Darn Zoom cut off right at 30-minutes, but within minutes she sent me an email that stated: “We got cut off. It’s Nicole and I just wanted to tell you that your zoom made my day. Please keep in touch. And I will be sure to let you know when our next event in Detroit happens (come up and be one of the house guides -we make it a great party). Have a wonderful night!!” I am so there. We were on the same brainwave, as I sent a similar message to her assistant volunteering to make a run to Columbus for her if she needed something and her crew didn’t have time to go it. To that she replied “Will do!!!” and asked if she could share my blog. Of course I said yes.
This Zoom was more validation for me. Nicole said she hoped I’d work on another house. I hope so too. My soul needs another old house to save. In the meantime I have at least been inspired to start writing about the Sidney house journey, something I was considering not doing. This call was the perfect ending to a great day as I can officially announce that Phase 2: The Garage project is under way at my Henshaw property. After weeks of searching and waiting JT King & Co., land surveyor, came out to stake the foundation corners. That allowed me to move forward with scheduling Wood Fundi Pavement, LLC, based in Camp Washington, and Neiman Plumbing to start the concrete and plumbing work on the foundation. My goal is to have a tenant in the apartment by fall.
In September 2017 I purchased a 1924 Cape Cod styled home from the Community Board of Camp Washington. I searched almost a year with my agent Steve Petersen before this opportunity presented itself. I toured the house with Joe Gorman, former Camp Washington Board Executive Director, when another couple was going to purchase it. The vision for its restoration came to me during that tour. Almost everything I envisioned that day has materialized. It took three years, but my restoration journey is 100% complete.
I watch a TON of HGTV and DIY shows and I fancy myself an “advanced DIYer”. I knew I wanted my first house to be a fixer upper, so that I could put my mark on it. I was empowered and emboldened by their shows to think I could handle a renovation project. Yes, this house was a bit more of a project than I set out to find. Interior design I did not consider one of my strengths. I spent the first 53 years of my life living in what my parents created. I didn’t know my decor style, so their network shows helped me find it. I enter their home giveaways all the time, but it was the 2017 Urban Oasis Giveaway that I fell in love with and it inspired almost all of my exterior and 1st floor interior color schemes. The pink door was my fastest departure, couldn’t do it. These are pictures of the areas I copied most:
I’ve already been asked if there is anything I’d do differently. I was able to quickly respond with one item, but there are three. I would have added a small can light above my stain glass window, similar to the one I put over the kitchen sink, so that window could stay illuminated at night. It’s one of my favorite original features of the house saved thanks to Architectural Art Glass Studio. I would have returned lights to the 1st floor bedroom closets. All three of the closets were reduced in size for duct work or a pocket door addition, so I didn’t think a light would be needed. I was wrong. The final item is I would have found the money and allowed Tiburon Energy to do foam insulation. I believe my master bedroom would have much better temperature regulation and I’d have less air seepage around my outlets if I had gone that route. It would have been an $8,000 investment that would have paid off long-term with energy savings.
Any regrets, many, but would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY! I shed a lot of tears and weight; not everything went according to plan, but it was a miraculous journey that I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to take. My life had purpose for the last three years. I learned and grew in so many areas. I’ve written this before, but what I’ve discovered is that at age 53 I truly enjoy working with my hands. I have a connection with the craftmanship that goes into old homes. I want to honor it and enjoy bringing it back to life. Call me weird, but my house spoke to me throughout this journey; she (her name is Janet, after my beloved mother) gave me a supreme sense of appreciation for saving her. I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from my neighbors, which is also humbling and appreciated. This house was an eyesore on the street for a very long time. I learned that the last owner actually used the backyard as a junk yard, which now explains why I dig up so many random car parts whenever I do yard work.
On October 24 I hosted another open house to show off the finished project. Once again I forgot to take pictures, but about 30 people came through and each got a souvenir bottle of hand sanitizer (making personalized hand sanitizers may become my new side hustle). With the news coverage of Covid-19 cases escalating the week leading into it I’m shocked anyone came. Of those that did about 40% were first timers. A business client and her husband gave up OSU football to see her a second time. They’ve been steady followers of the blog. I loved having her filled with people and great conversation. She deserves more of that. I’ve restored a beautiful house. The hard part will be making it feel like a home, which is a struggle given one vision I had for my life in this house will never come to be. The day ended with some close friends joining me for dinner and a toast of the completion. Hopefully the global leaders will quickly eradicate this pandemic, so that I can host more gatherings like that.
No final post on a restoration is complete without before, during, and after pictures:
Exterior: The thing I’m most proud of outdoors is the front yard. Believe it or not the very first project I did at the house was using my drop spreader to treat for weeds, which outnumbered the grass. I’ve been regularly treating the yard ever since, either myself or with a service. I put down tall fescue grass seed the first two springs, wrong time of year as summer heat got me before it really established. Finally this fall I rented a dethatcher to pull out the matted dead grass and weeds and then an overseeder and put down approximately 25 pounds of seed. With the paint job, pergola, and landscape the house is stunning, but it will only look better next spring when the grass is really full and luscious.
Original Light Fixtures: The house had been striped of all copper and metal. The looters took what they thought would make money at the scrape yard, but they left things of real value. All of the original moulding, unpainted, was still in the house and most of it was in really great shape, just dirty. That is why I personally removed, labeled, and bound together rooms before my demo crew started. All of the doors, even the ones too damaged to use, still had their glass doorknobs These sell for $20 and up on Ebay. Many rooms still had original light fixtures, albeit covered in paint or nicotine. I was not expecting the brass when I boiled some in hot water to remove the paint. Every original light that was left I was able to salvage, clean, rewire, and reuse.
Entry Foyer: The doors, entry and closet, were the greatest transformation. I lived with that front door through one of the coldest winters in Cincinnati’s history. The idea to put wallpaper in the hall closet was one of my favorite suggestions from a friend. Hopefully guest will be inspired by the message. I found it on a site Murals Your Way. This will be my signature mark if I ever get to restore another house.
Living Room: This room is a blend of my new found style and my mother’s. The rug, sofa, and oversized chair I selected from Haverty’s, but the rest of the decor, was my mom’s. I told my salesperson that the lamp and table must stay. I discovered my mother and Elvis (yes Elvis Presley) shared the same taste as a similar white lamp is part of the tour of Graceland. The only thing this space needs is the gas log set for the fire place. Clearly large screen televisions were not on the minds of the original builders as the height of the fireplace forces the elevation of the TV to be too high. The work my father and I did to allow for the running of electric and cabling makes it look like it was always meant to be.
Dining Room: I love the placement of the original wall sconces in this room. They were originally located in the living room, but clearly three of them were missing based on the holes in the wall. Of course the biggest transformation of this room was the removal of the wall that separated the dining room from kitchen and hall. You may ask why I have pictures of the yard with the dining room? Well the walnut trees you see are what created my gorgeous dining room table. The legs I had a full year before I bought the house. I just thought they’d make a great table I’d like to make one day, little did I know. It truly turned out amazing and having the chairs match the legs the way they do……..my mind’s eye hit the bullseye with that project.
Kitchen: Even before I saw the HGTV house I wanted blue cabinets, my favorite color. That house just confirmed I was making a great decision. Without question saving the original built-in was the greatest accomplishment of this space. The profile of the doors from an almost 100 year old cabinet I was able to select for my brand new cabinets. I impressed myself with noticing and making that detail happen. I’m so grateful Sosa Flooring (Sergio and Martin) were able to restore the floors properly. Until I made that correction the kitchen was not enjoyable to use and it loomed as my worst contractor decision of entire project that I had trouble forgiving myself for making.
1st Floor Hall and Bedrooms: When I saw the hint of brick from the fireplace I knew something special was being revealed. My cousin and his friends used a hammer and hand chisel to uncover the entire brick wall. A coating of LastiSeal stopped the crumbling and flaking to leave me with a gorgeous statement wall. Nothing super remarkable about either rooms. The first acts as my office. I still can’t believe it took me two years of searching salvage stores in the region before I found a door at Columbus Architectural Salvage. It turned out to be the exact size and swing for my opening. I just had to strip the paint and stain it to match the others. The hall and guestroom are decorated in tribute to my mom, so they stand out as my favorite areas of the house.
1st Floor Bathroom: The demoing of this bathroom was the toughest part of entire house. The original tile was set in concrete and wire mesh. My cousin and his friends were put to the test moving the original cast iron tub. I had done tile work on a much smaller scale, so what I pulled off in that space still amazes me. I know a professional would have easily charged me $5,000 or more. My goal was to restore the original look as much as possible. I used 4″x4″ tile on the floor, repeated the chair moulding, used 1″ hex on the floor. The “rug effect” was a twist and challenge for a advanced DIYer. In retrospect I should have just gone with a gray grout throughout. Putting white on white and black on black was a nightmare to do. It turned out OK, but it was also the reason I moved into the house without a functioning bathroom for the first two weeks. Converting a $15 salvage cabinet door to a mirror and putting it on a barndoor rail for the medicine cabinet was one of my most creative moments in the whole restoration.
My master suite is oh so SWEEEEET! I purchased a two bedroom, one bathroom house. More than enough for my single lifestyle. However the first time I walked up the stairs to the attic space and I saw the full height ceilings I said “this would make a killer master suite” and that is exactly what I created.
Master Bedroom: The Pinterest project to recess a $50 dresser in the wall to save space (like I needed to) turned out great. I was shocked I actually had enough clothes and shoes to fill my master walk-in closet, but I did. Of course my favorite project of the room is the bedroom furniture set (headboard and nightstands) I made from bead board reclaimed from the basement. If it were in my control I’d make sure that set never leaves the space; as long as its functioning it should stay in the house.
Master Bathroom: The bathroom is the size of my former bedroom. The original bathroom for that floor was confined to a dormer that held a 4′ tub, toilet, and sink. That same space is now just my water closet. Having the laundry room upstairs is so convenient. Converting dead space into my linen closet repurposing the small closet door I removed for the dresser insert was another sign of my growth as a designer. I had never laid flooring, let alone use reclaimed flooring I had removed to lace in with the existing floor. It was another proud moment. Sketching out and having built by the Amish my vanity cabinet was pretty cool too. Amazingly the tile work in this room, even with the angles was easier than the 1st floor. Mitch Altman, owner of Thermasol, a steam shower company, helped me turn the lemons from my poor performing shower system to lemonade by making his steam unit affordable to me. The entire space, with its massive steam shower and deep soaking tub, is a true home spa oasis that I’m not quite sure I deserve, but glad I have.
I want to thank my friends and family that supported this journey financially, physically, and emotionally. I must give a special shout out to my father who left his home in Florida to spend multiple weeks each visit with me in the first and hardest year of the restoration to help me accomplish what you’ve seen in these pictures. He has said to me many times I waited until he was old (he was 77 when I started and will be 80 in January) to finally show interest in something that has always interested him. We fought and argued throughout, but I learned a lot and the job got done. I did not have the funds to pay a contractor for what we accomplished. Our sweat equity is in the multiple of thousands in dollars saved and quality was never sacrificed. I also want to thank everyone that followed my blog during this journey. Prior to this post I had written 212 others, which have received 67,000+ views from 7,557+ visitors that have come from 68 different countries from around the world. I’m humbled and honored by that level of attention and hope that I inspired anyone hesitant to take a similar journey or helped anyone already taking one.
This is the final post of My First House – It Is Well With My Soul. I’ll be changing the name of my blog to Sista Girl With Skills, but will continue to write about my DIY projects. Phase II is the new construction detached garage. Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the hospitality industry where I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I hope that’s not the case as my soul is yearning for another old house to renovate. I’ve found something I can be passionate about. They say a job is only work when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. That has definitely been the case for much of my career. HGTV has Flip or Flops in several cities throughout the USA. How about Rehab Addict Cincinnati starring…………Venus, Sista Girl With Skill!.
Anyone else going stir crazy? My mind is grappling with this unprecedented event that has shaken the entire world. I still have client work to keep me seated at my desk, but the stay inside order is nerve wracking. Thank goodness the weather is improving, to allow for legitimate outdoor work. I’ve already done my first grass cut and now I’m going to tackle painting the cement foundation that my fantastic handy-man Tom repaired last summer. I was going to pay him to do it last year, but temps dropped before he could get to me. It’s my project now.
As I’ve shared many times over the two year restoration HGTV provided their professional designers for the color scheme of my first floor and exterior. I copied everything, but the front door color (couldn’t do pink) from their 2017 Urban Oasis Giveaway home, my favorite house since I became a HGTV junkie. The exterior of my house will be Sea Serpent with the trim done in Incredible White, both Sherwin William colors. What I love about Sherwin William’s website is they offer coordinating color suggestions, so I have decided to paint the foundation and I’m torn between Uncertain Gray and Lullaby.
Let me know what you think? Voting window closes April 2. Got to catch a no rain window.
I was not in the right mental frame of mind to hang the last door of my house. I had asked and paid Scotti to do to this door, what he had done for the basement door, but with the holidays and his having family in town he returned to me a door slab and jamb; basically what I gave him in the beginning minus the lock was installed. That got the project started on the wrong foot because I knew I would not be able to hang by myself without the hinges set to the right place. Annoyed, but not deterred, I purchased a Milescraft HingeMate kit from Woodcraft and took the door to the WoodShop around 2:30 pm Saturday (one of only two open shop days) because I’ve allowed Scotti to use my router and table. I also hoped he’d help make sure I had the markings in the right place.
I’ve said it before and will repeat again, I’m not proficient, which means I’m not efficient. It took me 3 hours to route in the 3 hinges. I got the first one done and decided to put it back in the jamb with the hinge pin in to make sure the other marks were right. Well I cut it about 1/8″ to high on jamb, which made for a tight/close fit at the top of the door. Good thing I did the fit as that made my marks for the remaining hinges off and they appeared to be way off anyway. It was 4:45 pm at that point and the shop closes at 5 pm. Scotti helped me make the correct marks and I scrambled to try and finish by 5, hoping now that I had the process it would be fast.
Well with the second hinge, I put my jig on the wrong side of door, which meant the cut was reversed. I was in tears by this point, so Scotti chiseled out the piece of wood that should have been on the opposite side. Really not a big deal, but a mistake I was mad I made. The salvage door turned out to be slightly, 1/4″, smaller in width than the original door as recessing the hinges created too large of a gap at the opening. This is something Scottie could have corrected when he had the door for three weeks, but fortunately he made the correction now, so I could work on the third hinge. I left around 5:30. No pictures from any of that work as I was just frustrated at myself. The kit worked beautifully, so glad I purchased. Here’s a company video so you can see what I did.
Once home I ate first (hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast) and then got started hanging. This was the fourth door in jamb I installed by myself, so I really was expecting this to go quick. Oh so wrong. My house slopes, so the opening was not level and it created a gap at the top, right side of door that I just could not figure out. My mind kept saying cut the jamb on the high side, but my inner voice said don’t do it. I turned the top of the jamb into a pin cushion with so many nail holes from multiple attempts. I took a chunk out of the top of the door; I crushed my mother’s lamp, damaged the moulding on the closet door, and gauged the wall when I lost grip and it fell inward; and I cracked the drywall which will need to be repaired and painted before I hang the inside moulding. At 4:12 am I went to bed with more tears, dejected and defeated.
Sunday morning I was awakened at 8a (so four hours of sleep) by a text alert on my phone that turned out to be a you can earn $130 by completing this survey from Amazon scam (I really hate that our text are now being invaded in the same way our emails are with these scams). Tired, but in clearer mind, I decided to skip church, turn on my Pandora Yolanda Adams station, eat some bacon and toast, and climb back on the bull that had thrown me a few hours earlier.
What I needed most was another set of hands, so I went in my basement and got three pieces of lathe from a pile I kept and screwed them to the jamb. That gave me something more substantial to hold and kept the door in proper alignment. It also allowed me to step back, without fear of the door falling inward, and clearly see where my gaps were and their size.
The slope of house created large gaps on the upper right, bottom left and small to no gaps on bottom right, upper left. The large gaps were too big for normal door shims, so I headed to my basement for the scrap wood pile and proceeded to build out the opening in the areas needed until I could get to a point that normal shims would work. In just 2 hours and 45 minutes the door was hung. I had to plane a little off the side of door near top as it rubbed slightly, but the door was in. I’m not sure if the original door’s knob was in the same place as this one, but I was amazed how the knobs of the closet and door stacked, so they would never hit together; a great turn of events from a door that truly kicked my ass. I thought hanging this door would be my final post announcing It’s a Wrap, but I have to repair the damage I caused first, before I can hang the inside moulding.
Everything must be done by Friday as I’ve scheduled a Birthday Open House on Saturday, so no rest for the weary. I tried to send all my local followers an invite, so if I missed you, but you’d like to see her in person, send me a message.
This is the back to my future master bedroom headboard created from beadboard that surrounded a hole that was a toilet in my basement. It was covered in yellow paint, black and white graffiti, cobwebs, and spider sacks when I tore it down. These are the best before pictures I could find as the vision of turning it into a headboard came much later.
Once I had decided to make the headboard, I scoured the Internet for design ideas and I came across the blog of Jen Woodhouse – The House of Wood DIY Life of a Military Wife. She has a ton of cool plans/projects, but the one that caught my eye was her Evelyn Chevron King Bed. I got the plans over a year ago, so this wood has been patiently waiting to be reinvented. The plans include side rails and foot board, but I’m not making those due to my adjustable bed frame. Open shop hours are Wednesday and Saturday and I literally thought I have this portion down in one week, two days. NOT.
The first step was getting the sheet of birch plywood to the shop. Thankfully Tom (my finish carpenter/foundation repairer) was willing to pick a sheet up from Home Depot and bring it to me at the shop. Per the plans I ripped it down to 77″ in width. Next was preparing the beadboard. I knew I wanted to remove the paint and graffiti and I thought it would mean stripping. However with one pass through a planner it removed most of the paint and graffiti. What was left I felt would add character, so the plan was hatched and I spent the bulk of the first day planning down the boards.
Once I got what I thought would be enough I found and marked the center lines (both vertical and horizontal) on my plywood and I started cutting 45 degree cuts. Jen’s plans had measurements for each length board, but she warned to measure first. I made it one step easier. I cut the 45s to be placed on the lines and left the boards long off the edge and planned to just trim all sides down once all boards were glued and nailed in place.
I started cutting pieces on July 13. I got the last piece glued and nailed in place on August 3. Primarily due to the limited open shop hours available at the shop I was using. I didn’t work every Wednesday and Saturday and some days I only got a couple of hours in, but this worked my patience. I didn’t butt the pieces tightly during the cutting phase. I nailed and glued all of the pieces in one quadrant first. When I started in the next about 3 boards in the lines didn’t align and by the end it was off by 1/2″. I had to take them apart (I had glued a few) and scrape the groove or tongue of each piece. Just the thickness of the residue paint was causing the issue.
Next came the trim up. In that raw finished state I knew I had created something special.
From this point forward I am not working from the plans. The wall that the head of my bed is located on is not wide enough to allow room for nightstands on either side. I currently use a TV table to hold remotes, pocket contents, etc. I had the idea of building a shelve above the headboard, which will give it depth away from the wall and creating dead space. The manager of the shop I was using added to the idea and suggested I put shelves along the sides too. So with that plan hatched I decided it would be really cool to have part of the backboard be the back of the top shelf. The board straddled across the two work tables, which meant I would be pushing as far as I could, but then need to go around to the other side of the table to pull through the remainder of cut. In that transition I pulled slightly away from my straight edge. Fortunately not much damage and if I hadn’t shared it in this post, most people would not be able to see it once it’s all complete. Learn from the mistakes of others.
With that cut, it was time to take the board home to apply the finish. There is a gentleman, Gene, that has adopted the shop donating all sorts of great tools. He’s a master woodsman and super knowledgeable. I was toying with either Polyacrylic, Polyurethane without or without stain. Gene recommended and prefers Danish Oil. I spent an evening on the Internet doing research and decided to take that route. I purchased Watco Danish Oil in natural. Super easy product to apply. I used a cheap sponge paint brush. They tell you to keep applying if you see certain areas drying up (soaking in) the oil. On the first coat that definitely was the case.
After the second coat.
With that the back of the head board is complete. This project took a major twist last week. Scotti encourages people to buy wood for their projects from Paxton Lumber. Originally I had planned to get slabs of Ash from the Randy Wipert, Woodwrights Sawmill and Hardwood who had got the walnut logs from me last year. He couldn’t produce them when I was ready so, over the phone I described the project to a clerk from Paxton. I am very comfortable buying site unseen, but never again will I do that with a wood project.
When I arrived to pick up the wood I knew IMMEDIATELY it was not what I had envisioned in my minds eye. I had approved white oak slabs, cut to 15/16″, in widths up to 12″. Long story short, I bought the wood and resolved myself to make it work. I actually spent an entire day in the shop working on the top shelf box. The planer in the shop struggled on these long pieces of oak, but I got them planed, joined, and ripped to prepare for biscuit/gluing them together to create the true width I wanted.
I took a piece of scrap oak home and applied Medium Walnut, Natural, and Dark Walnut Danish Oil. I didn’t love any of them, but was going to go with natural and then came the phone call that changed everything. Lacey, the woman that gave me the pine floors for my kitchen, called and offered me some of the floor joist she was removing from her house. True 2×12, 100 year old pine. I jumped on it and picked up five pieces and went straight to the shop (it was a Saturday). I spent the bulk of the time denailing one joist, but once denailed I started running it through the planner. 10 passes and we didn’t put a dent in the wood. I cleared enough to know that this was the wood my minds eye envisioned. This one spot rubbed with the natural Danish Oil confirmed it. It will take months to finish the heardboard if I move forward with the pine.
So what to do. Use the oak I purchased or create a fully salvaged headboard and use the pine. You’ll have to keep checking my blog to see how this project is going to end. Anyone want to lay bets?
With the dresser inserted, I was eager to get the trim around it. I would use the original trim that went around the door, but it would need to be cut down.
The first task was finding it in the mass of bundles. There are two other short closet storage doors and of course I found the trim for those before finally finding the bundle for that area. I had labeled them Master Closets 1, 2, and 3. Honestly at that point I couldn’t remember which was 1 or 3. 2 was easy because it had graffiti on it and my before pictures showed me where it went.
Outside of the graffiti this trim was in really good shape. Since I found all three bundles I decided to prep and hang them all. Literally all they needed was cleaning due to all the dust, which I did with a bucket filled with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I was prepared to do my denatured alcohol/Restore-a-Finish routine, but I only used the alcohol on the outer edges to remove paint and on the top plate of door 2 to remove the graffiti. I did use the Restore-A-Finish in these areas, but what really brought these pieces back to life was the Howard’s Feed and Wax.
The obstacle on this project was cutting the trim down to fit the dresser and I was nervous about this. There are no do-over opportunities. That trim design isn’t made anymore and aged wood with the patina I had can’t be store bought. I seriously thought about calling Tom Milfeld, but I put on my big girl pants and decided to do a trial run with some scrap wood first.
Forty-five degree miter cuts is rookie level, piece of cake. Measuring the right length, especially for the last piece is my struggle. I cut the left side first, followed by the top, which I intentionally made long. When my first angle met up perfectly I cut the right side of the top and then the right side. I failed, falling about a half inch too short.
That one practice run gave me the confidence I needed and I proceeded to cut the actually trim, SUCCESS!!!! But now what to do with the gap at the bottom????
I had always planned to cover it, which is why adjusting the front legs was crucial in Part 1. I think I’ll have extra of the original wall trim because I won’t need to reinstall any in the bathroom area, but I wouldn’t know that for awhile, so I decided to go to my favorite salvage store Building Value to see if I’d get lucky and find some wide, old, trim. I hit the jackpot by finding an old window apron (part that rest under the sill) in the exact color and with an outer moulding that was almost a dead match for mine. All I needed to do was rip it down to the right height, 6″; right width, “29”; clean with soap water, and rub with the wax. It fit and blended in like it was always part of the house.
I forgave myself for the poor paint job when I saw the finished product. As with my mirror project, what I saw in my mind’s eye became a reality. I am so stoked to find the rest of the trim and get it installed. While searching for the door trim I did find the trim for the landing at the top of the stairs, so I cleaned it up too; water and wax.
In installing the top of the stairs I discovered once again the difference between drywall and plaster thickness. The boards needed to align with the stair rail (I think that’s what that part is called), so I made my own shims from some thin pieces I had to build out the ends that needed it.
If all the trim cleans and hangs as easy as these pieces did I’m going to be one happy camper. I’m hugely motivated to tackle more of this project.
Some females have wedding books, saving clippings and photos of ideas to create the perfect wedding. I had an electronic house book, links and photos to things I’d put in my
first house. The idea to recess a dresser into the eaves space that was once a short closet was born from this picture I saw on Pinterest. I was starting with nothing in regards to furniture in my master suite. I really don’t like a lot of furniture, so this was the perfect solution to utilizing the empty space created when I relocated the door to this closet to my master bath linen closet.
It took several months before I found a salvage dresser that would fit in the dimensions, but I finally did on Nextdoor.com for $50. A beautiful, five-drawer dresser with dovetail drawers made by the West Michigan Furniture Co. of Holland, MI. I couldn’t find any before pics, but it was a beautifully made dresser; solid and heavy.
The first thing I needed to do was trim the overhang from the top and bottom sides. I’ve had this dresser for at least 9 mos, so I made the cuts with my circular saw before I started working with Tom Milfeld and taking classes at the Wood Shop. I butchered that dresser. Some areas I cut in too deep, some not far enough. It’s a good thing the bulk of the dresser would be recessed in the wall. I could have let it go, but I filled the gaps with wood filler and sanded down the high areas just to get it ready for paint.
This project was all about salvage, recycle, so I did not purchase the primer paint recommended by the Sherwin Williams sales clerk. I had over a 1/2 quart of their White Synthetic Shellac Primer left from the fire damaged door I bought, so I used it instead. He told me that would be over kill and he was right, as I discovered. I’ve always felt spray painting is the best option for painting furniture. Rolling/brushing creates too thick of layers if you’re not an expect and I am not. At the end that’s exactly what I got, but I’m jumping ahead.
Once the primer dried my first, bone head amateur mistake was revealed. I was in such a rush to get this project done, I did the cardinal sin in sanding. I started with 80 grit and never went higher, so my surface was rough, especially on the drawers. In hindsight I should have sanded at that step, but my first inclination was more paint would hide it, NOT.
My walls in my master are Sherwin Williams Indigo Batik, so I purchased a quart of their All Surface Enamel (recommended by the clerk) in that color and he recommended a Mohair Blend roller, which I also bought. I applied two coats of paint and at that stage absolutely hated that I had ruined such a beautiful dresser. I called my friend Joan who has a relative that paints furniture all the time. She uses scrap paint and sands lightly between two coats.
Even though I had three coats on already (primer plus two color) I decided to try the sanding in hopes it would get rid of the rough spots that were still visible. I only sanded the drawers. It helped and the fourth coat actually looked pretty good. So good I decided to drain the end of the quart can of Polycrylic. I had enough for just one coat, but at this point that dresser had five layers on it, which would come back to bite me.
The craftsmen that build that dresser left zero margin in the drawer openings. My five layers were thicker than the original stain, so when I went to test a drawer it would not close all the way. I intentionally painted the top edge of the drawer, but the bottom lip was just overage, so between the drawer edges and the opening overage I had too much build-up. I used my new chisel set to scrap the bottom of the drawers. I was hoping it would create a clean edge and it did. I thought scraping the bottom would be enough, so the next task was getting the dresser from the basement up to flights to my master.
Earlier in the week I had asked my neighbor if he’d be around on the weekend to help and he was willing, but when the day came I had the epic feeling of not wanting to fail with an audience. I didn’t know for sure if the dresser was going to fit and I didn’t want witnesses, so I tackled getting it upstairs by myself. I had the full on Jane Fonda burn working in my already too tight calves when I hit the top landing, but it inserted like a glove.
I tried the drawers again and same outcome, still too much paint, so I bought a paint scraper and scraped the paint from the top of the drawers and top/bottom of the opening. That did the trick, but it looked awful, so I decided take some dark stain (Minwax brand, but color unknown as I had poured the remnants of several different colors in one can) and stain the top edge of the drawers. That amazingly did the trick.
The next obstacle were the two front legs. I had to remove all four legs to trim off the bottom overhang. I reattached them to their original location. What I discovered was that my opening wasn’t square and the floor not level. I had used wood glue with the original screws and I needed to push the front legs back about an inch. I used my draw saw to cut through the glue and mini crowbar to left them off. Amazingly no damage.
That helped with the bottom alignment, but not the top. For that I removed the original nail-on sliders and installed adjustable, which would allow me to set the heights on each leg differently. Turned out I needed the entire dresser to tilt forward, so I made the back legs higher than the front. I also needed the front right side to be lower than the left, which meant the left rear had to be even higher to stop the dresser from rocking. Sometimes I amaze myself when my mind can sort through fixes like that.
With the tub reglazed and moving into a house without a functioning kitchen or bathroom it was time to crack the whip on the 1st floor bath. I had to resume working on the tile around the tub so that I could at least take baths.
Since a few days had gone from when I started the walls, when I went to resume I quickly noticed that the tiles on the long wall were not lining up with the shower head wall. The bottom row is the only row I had to cut to size and at some point I did not pay close enough attention to keep them aligned. The American Olean 4×4 had built in spacers, loved that about them, but I knew if I didn’t correct alignment by the time I got to the top my chair rail tile wouldn’t line up. Thankfully I had bought 1/8″ spacers, so I used them to slightly widen the space until the corners lined up again; four rows with spacers meant I was 1/2″ off. So fortunate to catch that when I did.
The first real challenge I had was the soap niche. I had never done one, but YouTube and a few visits to look at tile shop displays was all I needed to feel comfortable with moving forward. Planning the location of a soap niche is very important. I purchased pre-fabricated soap boxes for both showers, which had to be screwed to the joist before the cement board. I measured up approx 22″ from the tub, which is where I thought five, whole pieces of the 4×4 plus the 2×6 bullnose border would fit. Missed it!
First, the tile actually measured 4 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ and I didn’t know before I started that the bottom row would not be a whole piece, so I actually needed a 3″ wide border. I was stymied for a couple of days until I had another one of my MacGyver visions. I had initially bought the wrong cove base, but hadn’t returned it yet. It was 4×6 with a bullnose, so I cut it down to the 3″ I needed. The mitered corners were easier to measure and cut than I thought they’d be. 10 days after moving in I took my first bath; no more inconveniencing friends and former neighbors.
Once I got passed the soap niche and tub area I turned my focus back to the floor. I had grouted the white area, but not the black as I wanted to do it with the soap niche. In hindsight I should have chosen a neutral grout color, like gray, and used it on the floors and walls, but noooooo my mind/vision was fixed on black on black, white on white. Before I could apply the black I had to use my Dremel tool to clean out the grooves where the white grout had gotten into the wrong areas. I was on my hands and knees for hours. After getting all the areas cleaned out I vacuumed and applied blue painters tape around the edges in hopes that would be enough to stop the black grout from bleeding into the white areas. Theory and reality did not match on this occasion. When I pulled off the tape the “rug affect” looked like a hot mess and I cursed myself for thinking I could pull that off. At least the soap niche turned out alright.
Fixing the bleed over was more hours on my hands and knees using my Dremel tool to clean out the black. In some areas I had to mix more white grout to touch up, but amazingly, given my amateur status, the “rug affect” was a success and I could turn my attention to finishing the rest of the walls. All tile work was completed on January 8, over three months from the day I started.
My birthday gift to myself was going to be the completion of the bathroom by installing the toilet and sink. Unfortunately my Signature Hardware hardware fixtures, purchased in Spring of 2018 did not allow that to happen.
I started with the sink. I really wanted a console sink, but I decided to be prudent given the master bath extravagance and save the $400. I got the pedestal base in place and set the sink on top and placed it against the wall. It did not lay flush. I thought for sure it was my tile job, so I pulled out my leveler and it was not the wall. The sink was defective; there was a hump in the middle.
I turned my sites to the toilet only to find that one of the two tank bolts were missing. I was PO’d. So much for that birthday gift. I called Signature Hardware, had to send them the pictures and video above to prove the sink was defective, but once received they agreed to replace the sink. Fortunately for me I live about 15 minutes from their warehouse, so I didn’t have to wait for delivery. I returned it myself and was told they had to open four boxes before they found one that was flat across the back. Apparently they had gotten a bad batch from their manufacturer. I got a new pack of tank bolts too. This cost me another week. When I was able to work on the bath again I started with the toilet. Easy, peasy, I had it connected in about 30 minutes, flushed it once all was well. Back to the sink. I had to connect all the faucets parts first and as I was working on that, the toilet started to run. Long story shortened they sold me a toilet that had been returned/defective. That was why there was only one bolt originally.
I am now beyond PO’d. My track record with my Signature Hardware fixtures up to that point was not good. I had already dealt with two bad drains, two bad aerators, the sink, missing bolts, and now a defective toilet. There customer service with each call was stellar, they always replaced parts quickly and without question. For my inconvenience with the sink they refunded me 10% of the purchase price, a whopping $21.99. In a previous blog I had talked about ordering sink faucets with the wrong reach that they would not let me return, so needless to say I wanted a manager to explain how I got a returned toilet. I wasn’t overly irrate, but I listed all the issues I have been having with their products and shared I had never had problems like these when purchasing from Home Depot or Lowes and that they were supposed to have a high end product. I told him I regretted ever buying from them and that I feared connecting the fixtures in the master shower (the only items of theirs left to install – 10.16.19 update the master shower system is a complete disaster).
He asked me what he could do to make me happy, as my experiences weren’t a true reflection of their workmanship and quality. He opened the door and I burst through it. I asked for the console sink I really wanted and he gave it too me with no hesitation. I’d rather have things work right out the box as the time lost, translates to money lost, and the value of the console doesn’t equate. It took another two weeks before my schedule allowed me to put everything in, but on February 9th I had a fully functioning bath.
The towel rod, and toilet paper dispenser are American Standard TR Collection and the sink and shower faucets are American Standard Hampton Collection all ordered from Build.com. The original tub filler that came with the shower set I had to swap out for a longer one, Delta 7″, as when I filled the tub about half of the stream went directly into the overflow due to its cup design. That also came from Build.com. Next to Amazon that is my favorite online store to shop for my house.
Trying to be a more positive person is something I’m seeking on this new journey, so that is the inspiration behind my decor. It is a tribute to all the positive people that have come into life keeping me sane and motivating throughout this restoration journey. The wall paper that line the shelves in the closet and the back of the medicine cabinet is called Dream Big from Wayfair.com. The shower curtain, filled with motivational quotes and hooks, double sided so curtain and liner don’t share a hook, were great finds from Amazon. My other accessories: soap dispenser and trash can came from Bed, Bath, while the paper hand towel dispenser and linen like paper towels came from Amazon. All complimenting my black and white color scheme. I may have mentioned this item in an earlier blog about the electric, but I absolutely love my exhaust fan/light. Purchased from Build.com the fan comes on automatically whenever it senses humidity in the room.
I still need to touch up some areas with paint, hang the doors and medicine cabinet, but the functionality is complete. Of all the things I’ve done in this house, I think I’m most proud of this bathroom. My goal was to restore it to its original look and I think I accomplished that. I see the flaws, but I also marvel every time I walk in it amazed by what I accomplished with no assistance. I actually tell myself I’ve done good. I’m giddy, excited, to get the medicine cabinet complete. It will be an inspired by DIY/HGTV project with salvage material. Check back often to see the COMPLETELY restored bathroom.
How do you eat an elephant………………….one bite at a time and that is what it’s going to take to get my house finished. One would think now that I’m living here I’d have more time to work on things, but that has not proven to be the case. I had to come to the reality that I have not been growing my consulting business in over a year and I’ve probably jeopardized some of my existing clients by being overly focused on my house. Thanks to those that have shown patience and understanding.
Now that the 1st floor bath is fully functioning (next post) I have been tackling quick small projects in the evenings. In no particular order:
I’ve installed all the cold air vent covers. Only three, but I did need to buy a metal drill bit to get a hole through the metal frames that were behind the drywall. I got the grills from Amazon.
I put the access panel up in the guest bedroom. The City plumbing inspector required me to put a mixing valve on the water lines for the master tub and those lines ran in the ceiling of the guest bedroom along with the connection for the tub. I needed to create access to that area, so hence the need for the panel. I got the access panel from Home Depot.
The kitchen door is lockable, but I knew the knob on the door was not original and it looked terrible. The new knob I found looks like originals I have on other doors and I found it originally on Build.com. It was almost $50, but as I’ve said many times I’m trying to restore, not renovate, so I made the splurge. I realized a couple of weeks had gone by (you just lose track of time working on a house) and the knob hadn’t arrived, so I contacted Build.com. Turns out it was a special order for Baldwin, the manufacturer and it wasn’t scheduled to ship until March. I cancelled the order and found the exact one on Amazon for $20. I had it in FREE two-day shipping with Prime. My price must have been a fluke or special, because now the same knob is on Amazon for $40.
This next project actually took multiple evenings because of a brain freeze mis-drill. I hung the master bathroom vanity light. I’ve had the light for a few months, but didn’t like it. This was my first and LAST time ordering from Houzz. As soon as it arrived I had buyers remorse and contacted them that day for a return. I got no response. I don’t shop where I can’t return, so done with Houzz. I decided after we ran wires, but before drywall that I wanted the light to come from the ceiling instead of the wall (inspired by some HGTV show). Fortunately I had enough extra wire to make the move.
I went up into the attic access panel and measured the length of wire and the distance of where I wanted the light to cascade. I thought I had enough, but totally snoozed on allowing for the height of the ceiling joist. I cut the first hole and quickly realized the light needed to be on the opposite side of the joist. So, more drywall patching was in my future. I’m getting pretty good at it now.
Unfortunately there was one casualty, the LED mirror. I cleaned it for the first time and it fell off the wall. Fortunately I caught it, so it didn’t fall forward and the glass did not break. The bottom of the metal frame, which houses the IR and on/off switch, landed on the back splash and both broke. The light no longer functions, so I guess it’s a good thing I hung the ceiling light, which I’m learning to like. Build.com carries the same Eglo light. I contacted the miror manufacturer, Innoci-USA, and they said it’s not covered under the warranty. They are willing to send me a new IR and on/off switch if I pay shipping and handling. I’ll get the parts, but may never install them. I don’t miss the neon-like light it cast. If I understood what 6000K lumens provided (basically a blue tone, daylight) I wouldn’t have gotten it. At night you feel like you’re on Time Square. The glow is so neon-like you barely can see yourself in the mirror.
I ordered and hung the dining room chandelier, which means I’m now ready for my final electrical inspection. I wanted something that would compliment the original wall sconces. I was hoping to find something in pewter, like those lights, but couldn’t find anything I liked that was affordable. I started looking at other matt, silver, finishes and found this light originally on LampsPlus.com. They didn’t carry it in brushed nickel, but Build.com did. To get the right size chandelier I followed the guidelines outlined in a video found on LampsPlus.com. I ordered the same satin threaded bulbs, but in E12, from Bulbs.com I put in the wall scones. I’ll post a picture of it lit once they arrive.
I stained the moulding around the stain glass entry foyer window. I really need to put the frame back together, so I can finish that area once and for all. As you can see I managed to get stain on the wall, so some touch-up painting is in my future. The front door is scheduled to arrive the week of February 18, so I may need to spend a few evenings in this area.
The remaining projects were more decor related and helped to clear out some more boxes. I put all my mother’s figurines back in their storage cases and put out some of my framed pictures. I also hung two pictures. Gilbert Young’s “Fleeting Moments” will definitely stay in that location, but my Shackelfords photo picture I will probably end up relocating after my new sofa and over-sized chair arrive. I think it may get blocked by my floor lamp and make it hard for people to see it.
A friend of mine was shopping for bar stools for her house at the Frontgate Outlet Store and sent me some pictures of blue pieces she thought I might like. I liked several and decided to go take a look. I had planned to get two ottomans to use as my coffee table, but one of the only two had a defective leg. I did get the navy leather bench for my master bedroom. It looks awesome at the foot of my bed.
The last project to share was the connecting of my receiver, CD/DVD player, and phono to the Leviton Home System my dad ingeniously researched for my house. I can now listen to the TV, records, radio, DVDs and CDs through the speakers located throughout the house. I must admit, it’s pretty cool.
I found those peach crates on Offer Up. I had similar to store my albums in college, but stupidly got rid of them years ago. I found LP dividers, similar to what record stores use, along with sleeves for 45s, and vinyl record cleaner on Amazon. I felt compelled to get my old-school way of listening to music up and running given I’m living in an old house. My mix of vinyl (most of it was my mom’s) is pretty eclectic. That entertainment system has to be the most coolest feature of the house, at least until my car wash shower is complete.
Hunker down for the next post. It was almost 6 months in the making.