Tag Archives: old house

Happy House-iversary!

One year ago today, we bought ourselves a sweet little fixer-upper.

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Snooort.

It feels like we’ve lived here forever, pouring our blood, sweat, and dollars into this home – but also our love, energy, and attention. Cosmic balance!

I asked Jason last night:  at what point we will have sunk more money into the house than we will ever recoup? For example, if the value of the house is X and the purchase price was Y, is X minus Y our renovation budget? We’re not interested in selling any time soon, but we also recognize that a big four bedroom house (with an upstairs master suite) may not meet our needs for the rest of our lives.

I don’t think there’s a good answer. We got an amazing deal on the house, and we’ve paid for all the renovations in cash. Even if we used the formula above, where list price minus asking price equals renovation budget, we’ve only spent half that amount. In that sense, I feel good about the choices we’ve made so far. And, with any luck, the value of the house will continue to increase over time, which means the reno budget is always usually expanding.

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How do I love thee, house? Let me count the ways:

  1. I love that this house was designed for this particular climate. It has deep porches and an airy crawlspace, which makes the house relatively easy to cool in the summer.
  2. I love, love, love the amount of natural light we get. I frequently forget to turn on the lights when I’m cooking in the kitchen because the windows provide so much illumination.
  3. I love that we were able to move my mom over here; that our guest house has been the perfect accommodation for her. It’s separate but close, and she feels safe there.
  4. I love that we will never, ever, ever run out of projects. Ever.

I don’t miss much about our previous house, but I do miss having alternate “living” spaces. Previously, we had a formal living room, a family room, AND a sun room. Here we have a living room. We use the porch as a second living space, but it would be nice to have an indoor, TV-free area.

We’d planned to take the first year to complete the big-ticket, necessary renovations, and by and large we’ve done that. I think we both hoped to be done painting by now, but no such luck. We just started painting Hollyn’s bedroom a couple of days ago, and the rest of the children’s rooms need addressing.

Next up, we’ll tackle projects that are not strictly necessary, but which will increase our happiness. Remodeling the kitchen is high on our list, as is adding a sound-dampening fence along the Thomasville Road side of the house. Jason would like to add a plunge pool, and as the summer drags on, I’m warming up to the idea.

We are not on a television show, so we’re not on any kind of deadline. I’m comfortable living in an unfinished house, as long as each improvement we make is thoughtful. If it takes us another year to get the house “done” (or rather, “done enough” – a house this old is never done!) I’ll be happy.

I am happy. I’ve loved our first year here.

 

 

 

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A Tale of Two Closets

For an old house, our second floor bedrooms have enormous closets. Two of the bedrooms have two closets apiece – but alas, neither of these is the master bedroom. Tyler, a 13-year-old boy who has decided that “closet” is code for “floor,” obviously does not need two closets, and it just so happened that one of his closets backed up on the master bedroom.

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The plan was simple: hire a carpenter to remove the entire door assembly from Tyler’s side of the closet, and move it around to the master bedroom side, giving Jason and me separate closets (which would lead to increased marital bliss, and eventually our own space program).

Step 1: Cut a hole in the box

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At this point, we told Tyler we’d changed our minds and were going to leave this as a pass-through into his room. Much horrified gibbering commenced.

Please note the boxes on Tyler’s desk. Despite living in the house for six months, he has not fully unpacked. This drives me insane. To be fair, we have a couple of boxes of “things we will get around to sorting out eventually,” but we had to unpack 90% of the house, and he was only responsible for his own stuff.

Anyway.

Step 2: Move your junk from one side of the box to the other.

There was a slight snag in the proceedings. In Tyler’s room, the door was a left-hand outswing – meaning the hinges were on the left and the door swung out into the room. In our room, it would need to be a right-hand outswing, which means the carpenter had to flip the door inside-out. Or something. I didn’t watch.

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So that’s done. And by “done” I mean “except for puttying, sanding, and painting….and also putting rods and shelves inside.”

Basically, done.

This was a somewhat nerve-wracking project for me. I want to be respectful of our house’s history and the original intent of the architect, but I also want it to function for our family. Adding the gas lamps and painting the walls didn’t change the house in a meaningful way. This did. I’m very happy with the result, and I hope the ghosts of the previous owners are, too.

 

 

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Making an Entrance….Gradually

I am happy to report that, after five months of making our house weather-tight and functional, we’re beginning the process of making it pretty.

Jason and I took an anniversary trip to New Orleans and bought two gas lamps for the house. They increased our general happiness by at least 87%.

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Over the Christmas break, Jason and I sat down and made a (long, very long, oh so long) list of things we’d like to do to the house over the next year. It included simple things, like removing broken birdbaths from the yard, to complex projects, like completely stripping and re-painting all the trim.

We got started on New Year’s Eve by painting the foyer.

Here’s how it looked before:

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This room totally won me over from the first time I looked at the house. I love the beautiful sidelight windows on either side of the door, and the beveled panes in the door itself. I love the spaciousness of the foyer – it’s technically a non-functional room, but it’s also the axis on which the house rotates.

I didn’t love the color. In fact, I am a little surprised by how well the color photographed. It looks like a classy gold color. In real life, it was a yellowish brown with green undertones, and looked vaguely sickly. And, obviously, the large drywall patches were an eyesore.

My dream for the foyer was a space that was warm and welcoming, clean and fresh. My inspiration was the 2015 Southern Living Idea House. It’s my favorite of all the SL Idea Houses, and I immediately fell in love with the main color used throughout the living areas, Sherwin Williams’ Steamed Milk. It’s a cream color, just enough to stand apart from bright white trim. Here’s the foyer from Southern Living’s house:

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As you can see, this foyer and mine are very similar. We even have a gas lamp on a similar bracket just outside our front door. TWINSIES.

We bought a five-gallon bucket of Steamed Milk, borrowed a 24-foot extension ladder, and got to work.

Here’s a better picture of the “before” color. This is around a window, with the new color at the bottom of the photo. See how much greener the old color looks compared to the earlier photo? Yeah. Not good.

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Two days and three coats later, we were done.

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Here are a few more before-and-afters, from different spots.

Looking towards Hollyn’s room, before:

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and after:

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Looking towards the kitchen, before:

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(I know. Ignore him.)

and after:

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There are no more visible drywall patches! It’s so nice! The foyer does feel a little spare right now, but our next step will be to bring in more color through MOAR ART. Replacing the stair runner is also on the to-do list. My dream is to add custom millwork too.

I’d better start planning a bake sale or something.

 

 

 

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The World’s Lamest Reveal

In July, we bought this fixer-upper:

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After 3 months and a substantial number of renovation dollars, I present…..

(drumroll)

(hushed, excited whispers)

(maybe a little cowbell)

OUR HOUSE:

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(loud sigh)

That’s right, almost all our renovation dollars were spent on stuff you can’t see! Psychologically speaking, this was a terrible decision! We should have just lit a pile of money on fire in the front yard!

Here’s a breakdown of where the dollars went:

  1. New Roof – Hartsfield Roofing & Construction
  2. Complete Rewire – Chad O’Hara’s Quality Electrical Services
  3. Foundation Work – Alpha Foundation Systems
  4. Vermin Elimination – Black Thumb
  5. Plumbing and Gas – White’s Plumbing
  6. HVAC Unit and Duct Replacement – Central Heating Consultants
  7. Drywall Repairs – Wall Doctors

Fear not! It appears the hard part is over. We’ve unpacked most of our boxes and are gearing up to paint. We’re going to start with our own room. The kids are miffed, but HEY, they don’t pay the mortgage.

Jason asked for a blue room, so I picked three shades to test:

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Top to bottom, that’s Wythe Blue (Benjamin Moore), Palladian Blue (Benjamin Moore), and Flora (Behr). I liked the darkest and he liked the lightest, so we compromised on the middle shade.

And that’s marriage in a nutshell.

 

 

 

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Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My

“Lions and Tigers and Bears” sounds a lot better than “Rodents and Web Worms and Ants,” but the latter is what we’re actually dealing with over here. Gross.

During our long exile in the guest house, I noticed mouse poop every time I’d visit the big house. I secretly hoped that Bonus Cat (a black cat who came with the house and dwells in the crawl space) would help keep the rodent problem at bay, but alas. The mice continued to cavort all over our belongings, leaving a trail of misery and poop pellets in their wake.

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We selected a company called Black Thumb to eradicate the rodent menace, because Black Thumb is a terrific name for an extermination company. They have trapped four mice so far – two in the house, two under the house. We have not seen any sign of rodent activity in almost a week.

Once we got that problem under control, it was time for something else to fall apart. Our favorite contractor came out to begin wood rot repairs, and discovered a colony of carpenter ants in our siding.

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BAAAAAH.

That ended up being a relatively easy problem to treat, as I just called our regular pest control company and they came out the next day to spray at no additional charge. When does that ever happen?

So, two problems down. I was feeling pretty competent, until the yard guy (who, like Bonus Cat, came with the house) pointed out a crop-circle-like spot in the grass.

Bad things come in threes, remember? Not twos.

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Probably sod webworms. Greeeeeaaat.

The pest control company doesn’t treat grass, so we’ll have to tackle this one ourselves. Wish us luck.

Finally, an update! Thanks to everyone who voted in my Friday Lighting Poll. The Farmer squeaked out a win, so three of ’em are headed this way.

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Wait, what?

Yes, this post will include a house update. BUT FIRST!

Earlier this week I stopped by my friend’s house. Her daughter and Tyler are 12 days apart and, for the first time this year, have classes together at the middle school. I walked in the door and my friend says, “Brenna, YOU TELL WINDY WHAT YOU JUST TOLD ME ABOUT TYLER.”

Oh, Lord, I thought, he’s dealing drugs at school.

“Well,” the eighth grader began, “Tyler is… like…. kind of…

WHAT?? JUST TELL ME!

….popular.”

(stunned silence)

“Wait, what?” I could not believe my ears. “Tyler? Our Tyler?”

“Yeah, I know, right?”

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So that was weird.

OK, now we can talk about the house.

The plumbers have done their work, with a couple of exceptions. They still need to re-rough the drain lines under the kitchen sink (SEXY) and the City of Tallahassee needs to turn on our natural gas (GASSY).

The electricians have contented themselves with punching an alarming number of holes in our walls and ceilings.

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Really? Was every single one of those necessary?

There have been a series of minor crises. In my head, the severity of a problem corresponds to the number of digits in the price to fix said problem. So, we’ve had a four-digit mouse problem, a three-digit HVAC problem, and a three-digit van AC problem…. in the last week.

We’re also remembering – slowly – why we bought this house in the first place. We’re finally seeing through the veil of repairs to the house itself. The porch is an amazing place to sit, whether it’s first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, or last thing at night with a glass of wine. The bedrooms are taking shape, and the kids have spent a couple of nights in “the big house.” I have not – my rule is that my coffee maker and I must sleep under the same roof. Also, the mouse problem brings with it a flea problem, which no.

It appears that we’ve inherited a cat along with a landscaper. We call him (her?) Bonus Cat. It’s all black, and it loves to lurk in the crawl space and scare plumbers and electricians.

I believe the electricians will be done, or substantially done, by the end of next week. Fingers crossed, people!

 

 

 

 

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You Are Here.

We are now closing out our third week of home ownership, and we are still living in the apartment. The electricians have not been here since Tuesday. Jason called the company on Thursday and gave them a sample of Extra Spicy Taylor. Bottom line – they won’t be working any faster, and they’ll need another 2-3 weeks to finish.

A few people have asked why the rewiring process necessitates us being out of the house.

Lemme ‘splain.

The first thing they did was remove every outlet, every light switch, and every light fixture in the house. So even if the power was running to, say, the kitchen, there are no light fixtures to turn on, no switches with which to turn them on, and no outlets for things like coffee makers.  On top of that, all the furniture must be kept away from the walls so that the electricians can access them.

We have this. Everywhere.

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Upstairs, the new wiring has been roughed in – which means that instead of what you see above, there are gray plastic boxes in the holes:

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The once and future light switch, folks.

They are juuuuust starting work on the downstairs. In the foyer, for example, we’ve gone from this:

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To this. The hole above is on the right below:

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Part of my frustration is that I have absolutely no idea what a reasonable time for rewiring should be. We were not on-site for the rewiring at our previous house, and I don’t remember how much time it took. Additionally, all I can see is the wires poking out from the walls – there’s a whole network behind the walls, in the attic, and under the floors that I CAN’T see. And they had to go in and replace all of that, as well.

Still.

I get upset when I think about school starting and the kids having to sleep on air mattresses in the guest house. I get upset when I have to plan meals carefully, because we have a small refrigerator and small storage space. WILL I EVER GO TO COSTCO AGAIN???

Mostly I get upset when I go to the big house and see our forlorn piles of boxes, which we will STILL have to unpack when they’re done. I would love to go ahead and paint over there, but the crew is not done putting holes in the walls.

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This is our living room, plus all the porch fans. Classy.

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My big, beautiful, light-filled kitchen, which looks like something out of Hoarders.

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And Hazel’s room, now with 150% more holes in the walls.

It will be okay.

I keep telling myself that. Relatively soon, all this will be over. Relatively soon, we’ll be living in our house with new, safe wiring. Relatively soon, we will be able to laugh about this.

Soon, but probably not today.

 

 

 

 

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