plan of (crack) attack

With so much going on lately — having new baby, Sal going back to a pharma job while still running auctions, then leaving that job to do auctions full-time — we’ve been slow to move on house projects.

We moved into the Chumney House last spring. That’s right. We’re those crazy people who move all their stuff in before finishing things up. This means we’ll have to move furniture out of rooms just to get floors refinished and there might be a few days that we use our friendly neighbor’s showers or kitchens if/when we remodel those areas. But going ahead and moving in meant we could rent our house in Midlothian and make that an income producer. We probably make enough each month to cover annual upkeep and property taxes.

Most acute on our to-do list is addressing the large chimney on the north side of the house. It was previously repaired with what looks like Portland cement (not uncommon with old chimneys but not really a good idea). Why? Because we’ve got us some old bricks, ya hear? And you can’t just use a mortar that is stronger than your bricks or they’ll crack. Remember when we first bought the house how Sal used some weed killer and a water gun to kill the branch growing out of the hip of the big chimney? You don’t? It was a laugh, but successful in killing what we referred to as our “chimney tree.”

113exteriorpaint3

Anyway, this photo of that chimney was taken back when we were having the house painted. Now that the paint is all pretty, it’s even more of an eyesore. See how crumbly it looks? We’re a little nervous. And so are the people who inspected the house for our homeowner’s insurance. So… we took a few samples of the mortar to Riverside Brick. They are helping us match our samples to a Mix and Go product made by Virginia Lime Works, which is trusted by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (it’s a lime mortar good for working with pre-1940s brick structures) and should therefore be approved after our mason does a test patch of joint repair and we submit photos. The guy we’re working with has ordered two samples to do a little comparison as to which one most closely matches. Why go through the trouble? Remember, we’re following the Department of the Interior’s standards so we can get tax credits.

The plan is to stabilize this bad boy before the bricks give out. Those that are most compromised will be replaced with similar bricks. Perhaps my favorite part of this project is that Sal frequently pronounces “masonry” as “masontry.” I don’t know why but I get a good chuckle out of that. You could say it cracks me up. Sorry. Couldn’t stop myself.

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Matching Mantels – Auction Inspiration

Please, oh, please someone buy these two matching mantels and turn them into headboards for a child’s room. I LOVE this concept!

We’re using the existing one in Nora’s as a headboard, but there’s still a little distance between the bed and the wall because of the brick hearth. Eventually we’ll knock that out and things will be flush. It also kind of annoys me that the fireplace isn’t centered on the wall, but what ya gonna do? If I had a room without a mantel, I’d bid on these in a heartbeat and put them exactly where I wanted them.

These guys are in great condition and came out of a historical house in the village in Amelia. There are also some newel posts, light fixtures, and a set of oversized doors (at least that’s what we think they are). Come check us out Saturday in Rice.

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the nursery. finally.

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything on the blog. Sorry. Somehow I worked up the motivation to take some pictures of Josie’s nursery this morning. We still have a few projects to finish in here, but, I must say, I’m thrilled with how everything has turned out.

Sal did a wonderful job painting in here (he even painted the ceiling and the closet we converted into a changing station). I actually sent him home from the hospital to work on it the night before we brought her home so it would be finished in time. He also installed a new ceiling fan with a light (there was no light before). Unfortunately, the bulb just went out and it’s not a standard size so these pics are a little dark and blurry. My apologies.

Josephine Lucile was born July 19. She’s an angel baby. Seriously. She sleeps through the night. She started out sleeping five-hour stints and increased it to 10-plus by about two-and-a-half months. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful children.

My friend Jen did an amazing job sewing the ruffled curtains. I absolutely love them. She really outdid herself. There’s a half-inch difference in the floor-to-ceiling height between the two windows that she compensated for without making it look too obvious. We also had to be a little sneaky hanging them to make up for the fact that one window butts up against a wall.

Future projects include painting Josie’s mantel letters, mounting her artwork, and hanging some tissue pompoms above the crib. We’d also like to hide the baby monitor cord and possibly add quarter-round moulding to hide the funky spaces between the floor and the wainscoat. And, at some point, I’d like to build an upholstered cushion seat over the brick hearth and possibly a bookshelf within the firebox.

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nursery door knob dating

While Sal has been working on the nursery, he’s made a few discoveries that help us date when changes were made to the room. For instance, this is the room that contains the entrance to the attic (basically a door that opens to a winder staircase). On one of the attic steps we found “Emily ’83,” in the same green trim paint that Sal is still painstakingly priming white (he’s finishing up the windows). So this room had green trim from 1983 to 2012, almost my entire life.

More interestingly, at least to us, though, is the door lock he removed this weekend. It’s going back on after we decide what to do. We know we want to remove the layers and layers of paint on it but we’re not sure about painting or just preserving its natural look. What’s cool is the text we can barely discern under a few coats of paint.

“Patented” or “Pat Pend” “May 17 187?” From all that historic register research and just what we’ve picked up from working with historians and reading reference books through the years, we know that this means the lock can be no older than the date on it but could have been added any time afterwards.

What will be neat is to compare it against other similar locks in the house to see if they have the same dating, which could give a clearer picture of whether they were installed before 1900. Even then, all we’ll know is it is likely versus knowing for sure because, as we know from our auction experience, people love to buy old hardware (sometimes all from one old house) and install it in their own. We’ll keep you posted on whether we “unlock” this mystery in the coming months.

 

 

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nursery paint progress

One thing that really gets a project moving for us is a looming deadline. There’s nothing like a July 12 due date to help us focus on completing the nursery. Well, that and work on the auction we have coming up this weekend, and keep the grass mowed, and build a little fence to keep varmints out of our wee little garden…

Sal’s been putting in some hours in the room that will be home to baby girl Guttuso two (yes, we have a few names picked out but we like to see a baby before we attach a name to her, just to make sure it fits). We’re using the same decor scheme and furniture we had in Nora’s nursery, which means once the paint is done we can move everything in and it should be ready.

First, Sal patched a corner where the drywall was peeling and caulked around the mantel.

 

The walls will be a pretty pastel green and the wainscoating and trim will be white. He started with a brush to go around the edges and tight spots where the green paint will go so he’d be free to use the roller on the larger areas.

We’ll post pics of the in-between stage soon (light green walls and dark green trim looks a little St. Patrick’s Day festive). Next he’ll give the ceiling a fresh white coat, then tape and paint the trim, which includes these lovely windows.

Hello, detail work. Thanks, Sal, for all the hard work you’re doing on this room.

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buh-bye curtains

I know, I know. I haven’t blogged in weeks. Sorry to all my fans. It’s like this pregnancy has caused some kind of brain disfunction that allows me to balance only a few thoughts at one time (pregnancy brain?). Once I fell behind I haven’t been as motivated to keep up with frequent posting. We just got done with two auctions two weekends in a row, though, so I feel like there’s some new space available for updating you on our status.

Here’s a rundown of our recent activity:

Back when it used to get dark early, we took down the old dry-rotted curtains in the dining room and the ballroom. Now you can see the intricate woodwork on the frames in the ballroom and the things feel less drab (although a little bare). I’m happier with a blank canvas than one left by someone else or a temporary solution, so Sal’s taking the old curtains down made me very happy. Now I get to stare at the windows and imagine the new floor-to-ceiling curtains I’ll make (or have made) once we finalize paint decisions, remove wallpaper, etc.

 

We also had Mr. Moon’s crew at Dominion Window Company come and install the new storm windows and are pleased with the way they look. I need to take a picture and post all the details but if you want a mental visual right now just imagine an almost invisible storm window that is flush with the exterior frame. This has made a huge difference in the heat and cold loss we were dealing with while the old storms were gone and we “went bare” for months. Plus, there’s been a much desired decrease in the number of bugs (including wasps!) that get into the house.

We’ve made a few purchases as well. Hopefully I’ll post some pictures of our new sofas, rug, refrigerator, range, washer, and dryer soon. These additions help me function on a daily basis. It didn’t really feel like home until I was able to lounge on a comfy couch, wash clothes without lugging them somewhere (we are leaving the old washer and dryer at the Midlothian house for renters) and store more than a minifridge’s worth of groceries (which for some reason was stuffed with jumbo-sized condiment containers so I had plenty of ketchup but no room for eggs).

As for remodeling work, there’s a bit of frustration in getting things going. Seriously, we’ve had little luck with follow-through from contractors. A roofer will come out to look at the leak in the add-on (we’d like to address it before we have work scheduled for the bath, entry, and laundry room makeover) and then never call us again or mail us a quote. We’d love to use someone local but we don’t want to beg people to work for us. For now, we still live with an ice chest in the downstairs bathroom that we open when it rains. It doubles as a seat for me when Nora’s in the bathtub.

I have high hopes for having some things done before my July 12 due date but, realistically, none of it could happen. My urge to decorate is undeniable but must be somewhat refrained until other projects have been completed. I hope to tackle some smaller tasks (little decorative things I don’t need to rely on a contractor to begin, such as making some toy storage ottomans/kid seats out of galvanized buckets for under our  coffee table and throw pillows for the sofas).

In the coming weeks we’ll move our furniture in and I know I’ll get some satisfaction out of figuring out where things should go. I will TRY to keep you posted.

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window work

Please ignore the gas-guselling utility vehicle we occasionally crank up for hauling stuff around. Instead, shift your focus to the ladder we bought and mounted on top of it. We figured with a really tall house we’ll need a really tall ladder.

The first job this bad boy will have is to assist in some storm window installation pre-work. At first we assumed we’d just keep the existing storm windows and replace only those that either A) were in rough shape or B) did not align with the regular windows. Those on the second story were giving us little spasms when we looked at them. Scroll up to the banner and look closely at the second floor windows. See how they have a double horizontal line across their centers? This is a no-no for houses on the National Register of Historic Places.

We thought we’d just order more Lowe’s storm windows but the cost of doing so was pretty close to having custom ones made. So, we chose to go custom. We’ve been living without storm windows since the house was painted in late fall (the painters took them down and we requested they leave them off since new ones will go up).

We’ve contracted to have Dominion Window Company install Velv-a-Lume storm windows. Since no two windows on the house are exactly the same in size, Thomas Moon, pictured below, came out to measure each one before he orders the storm windows. Unfortunately, in order to make some of the standard-size big-box custom windows fit, some spacers (think thin strips of wood) were added. Shame we didn’t know about them before we had the house painted. Sal is slowly working his way around the house prying off the wood, sanding, and painting. We’ll keep you posted as work progresses.

 

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big plans, little changes

Now that I’m feeling better (I’m 18 weeks pregnant and still a bit ill at times), I’m going to try to blog more frequently. I’ve really missed it and I hope you have too. Anyway, in the next few posts I’ll share some of the small changes we’ve been making around the house (which is nice and comfortable now thanks to Sal keeping wood loaded in our Hardy furnace).

Speaking of nice warm heat flowing into the house, I’ll start this week off by introducing you to our new floor registers. Here’s what they used to look like:

Kinda crusty, right?

Sal did some research and concluded that we needed something more substantial to keep children from being able to pick them up too easily and something with a nice finish that’s less likely to get nasty over a few years. Here’s what he found:

This one photographed a tad lighter than how it looks in natural light. He opted for a standard design of solid brass with an oil-rubbed bronze finish. These things are seriously heavy. Nora won’t be picking them up until she joins the ladies weight-lifting team in high school.

Here’s the package insert they came with in case you’re interested in specs. We ordered them from SignatureHardware.com.

 

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new year, new baby

So… I’ve been a bit MIA in recent weeks months. My leave of absence pretty much lines up with the sixth week of this pregnancy. Yep, that’s right. Baby number two has been cooking for a while — three months, in fact — and the hormone-induced nausea has been pretty extreme. Seriously, I consider it a successful day if I don’t, you know, lose my breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Until recently, I haven’t had too many successful days.

We are over-the-moon excited about our growing family and looking forward to his/her arrival in mid-July. Look for more blog entries as I regain my ability to digest entire meals.

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Happy Holidays!

Thanks to all of you that followed our adventures in 2011. 2012 promises to be an exciting year with lots to report regarding the Chumney House. We are very pleased to report that the repair and re-paint of the exterior has been completed so our beautiful old house will enter into the new year with a new look. Now its time to gear up for the interior re-paint! Hope you and yours have a happy holidays and a prosperous 2012. Enjoy the after pics of our most recent restoration project.

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