Yesterday kicked off the next major phase of home improvement around here--the landscaping! We're really, really excited to be doing this, since it's very much a quality of life type of project as opposed to "Well, I guess we really need working toilets. And hot water. And heat would be nice too. Oh, and keeping the water out of the house is a good idea." like most of the stuff we've done around here for the past couple of years. In other words, this is fun stuff, not a "necessity".
In preparation, we have taken down many, many trees on the property. We lost count, but I think it was approximately 46 trees. Needless to say, this was a job for the professionals. We don't really have photos that show the before and after, or any photos that look like anything for that matter, so I will skip showing pictures of that phase for now. With that out of the way, though, we could move on to the more exciting part!
The landscaping project will include a lot of masonry, repairing and in some cases extending our existing stacked stone walls; in addition we will be adding two new patios, bringing the grand total of patios on the property to...two! We are also installing a frontage fence along our front property line, hopefully with an automatic gate (to be determined based on budget), and a lot of other fencing in other parts of the property. We'll also be burying our utility services, so no more unsightly power pole in our yard, and no wires strung above the driveway. And the piece de resistance will be a brand new Gunite swimming pool. Woo!
So we are on Day Two of this project now--we expect to finished by approx. the end of December, assuming the weather cooperates, permits are all approved in a timely fashion, etc. Right now, the photos I have basically just show a lot of destruction & debris, but once things start taking shape I will be sure to post some pictures. Wish us luck!
Sorry it's been so long since we have updated, but amazingly enough, having infant twins somehow tends to suck up the majority of one's time! The babies are doing well, getting really big now (4.5 months old), and work is still progressing on the house, though most of it is now outdoors.
About a month ago we got our new septic system installed, which went off smoothly and in general was a positive experience. If you are in the northeast and need septic service or repair/replacement, I would recommend our contractor without hesitation. (Just email me for their info)
Here are some pics of the admittedly not that exciting process, just in case anyone is curious what a septic tank (or two, in our case) actually looks like!
And of course, the requisite photos of the big equipment, which always excites me (apparently I was a 6-year-old boy in a former life or something. This is Cynthia writing by the way. LOL)
Lots of small changes have been happening around here, many of which seem too small to document, but hey...it's our house and our blog, so why not? Besides, we're pretty much wrapping up the interiors. Which is really the point, after all!
This is one seemingly minor change that actually had a big impact. We installed solid brass sash locks in our formal living room and formal dining room. Amazing how much of a change they made in the overall look of the space! It's little details like this that can really make a space feel complete.
Similarly small details, of which we're inordinately proud, can be found in our downstairs powder room. This little space was outfitted with pink and black tile and an acoustic ceiling when we bought the house. Big change! The print is a hand colored antique print of the terrace at Central Park, a place which holds a lot of great memories for us.
Another random project that looks incredibly unimpressive to other people but which makes a big difference in our everyday lives: we replaced several back doors around the house. Here's the one we use most often...yay, it opens, closes, LOCKS, and is airtight!
And another gratuitous nook shot...this is Brian's pet project on the interior of the house, and he's justifiably proud of his decorating enedeavors.
Next up...this is our front door, which is still really really old, but at least now looks pretty nice. We're still planning on replacing the door (no boos from the peanut gallery, please! It's OLD but not original, and it's in really rough shape. And we're replacing it with a solid wood door.), but in the meantime, I'd say Brian did an awesome job refinishing it and the interesting surround. We'ved 86-ed the scary aluminum screen door from 1950, by the way, but if you want it, it's sitting in our barn
And last but not least, here are some shots of the area's wildlife...more or less wild, depending on the particular subject matter.
Here's a Golden Eagle we observed hunting in our front yard.
And the more commonly seen Red-Tailed Hawk, a pair of which nest in our woods.
Hee hee! Funny photo of a deer in our yard.
And no big post would be complete without the dog photos. Here's Jack in a shirt (necessitated by a little sore spot which his brother kept licking):
And my two gorgeous blondes together, enjoying the early spring weather:
While I'm in the posting mode, I figured I'd also do a quick post on the progress of our formal living room. This is not the room where we hang around and watch TV; this is more of an entertaining space and to be used for cocktails before dinner parties, etc. Assuming that people with twin infants ever actually entertain, that is. Hahahaha!
At any rate...here are the BEFORE shots of the living room when we bought the house. All of the stuff in these photos belonged to the former owner of the house. It was dark, gloomy, filled with mismatched furniture (some of which was actually gorgeous, I must say), and just run-down. Not to mention the faded and stained wallpaper, yucky sooty fireplace, disgusting bookcases made out of plywood, and so on. I know the photos are dark, but that really is what it looked like!
And here it is today--not 100% finished yet, but we've come a long way. The most obvious changes are refinished floors, totally re-plastered walls, new moldings (including removing a lot of corner moldings and other weirdly placed ones that chopped up the room), a ceiling light fixture for the first time (!), new bookcases, and, of course, draperies, paint and new furniture. We're still missing two chairs that are apparently being built out of mahogany trees that haven't yet been cut down, but when they arrive the big pieces will all be in place. Then we need some proper art for over the mantel, and we'll be just about done. Until we decide to replace the rug...what can I say, it never ends!
FINALLY! We had a chance to sit down and organize all of our new pics, so here goes. The overwhelming response from all three voters (hee hee) was to post pics of the nursery, so that is where I'll start.
First off, here's the "in progress" shot. Brian stripped the windowsills and various other old surfaces, as well as refinishing the floors. He also refinished the original bead and batten door that leads into the nursery, though we ended up replacing other doors in the room. We DID save the old doors and may put them back at some point, but for the time being we're using fresh new lead-free doors.
And here's how it looks now. Only a few details remain, such as window treatments and the finishing touches in the adjoining bathroom. Cute, huh?
The bathroom still needs a few finishing touches (like a toilet seat, LOL) but it's come a long way!
This is what the bathroom looked like when we bought the house.
And finally, as a special treat...here's an image of the two future inhabitants of this space...this image was taken from a 3-D ultrasound. Neat, huh?
More posts to come soon!
Yay!! We accomplished so much in this room recently that although I'd normally wait to post before/after photos until the room is at least partially furnished, I am too excited to wait. So, without further ado, here are the first before/after shots of our babies' room.
When we bought the house, this room had been used as the master bedroom, and featured several closets that had been added at various times in the past. We stripped a ton of wallpaper, removed one of these closets, replaced two very rotten windows, and did a lot of floor and wall and molding patching and repair. In addition, we also removed the radiators (long ago) in favor of high-efficiency forced air heating and cooling throughout the house. Note the missing floorboards where the radiator once sat. Here's what it looked like once we had stripped off all the wallpaper and done the majority of the cleaning up:
And how it looks today after a LOT of work!!
The bedroom is now fully complete with the exception of the baseboards which need to be painted once the poly on the floor is fully cured. For the purists out there who notice the absence of the charming bead and batten doors, please note that we removed them but have not disposed of them. They were absolutely coated in lead paint and honestly we just didn't have the courage to stick doors with lead paint on them back into our kids' room. Charming architecture is fine and good, but lead paint poisoning is nothing to play with. If and when we feel comfortable doing so, we can always put back the original doors someday.
There is also an attached full bathroom, semi-visible in the last photo, which as mentioned earlier is still in a state of flux. Even in its current all-white coloration, though, it's a million percent better than the scariness of the original!! Here's the "before" of the bathroom (complete with previous owner's stuff)--YIKES!!
We get lots and lots of questions on a regular basis about the paint colors we have chosen for our house. I figured that one big post of all the paint colors we used throughout the house (so far!) would help people out a bit. You will note that we keyed all of the whites on the trim to the specific color used in the room. This is not how normal people do things, we realize, but we wanted the colors to really harmonize together. There is one update to this list, the babies' room is going to be painted in "Good Vibrations" which is a lovely soft yellow--not too bright, not too pastel. Just right for a gender-neutral kids room or really any room where you'd like a warm, soft yellow.
All colors are Benjamin Moore, many from the Historical Colors collection. Hope this is helpful!!
Note: a few colors were tweaked or custom-fabricated just for us by Mr. King Street, and most of those are designated with a 50%. If you can find a cooperative Benjamin Moore dealer who has time to work with you, you can ask for them to do the same for you. For our hallway color, for instance, ask for HC-38 at 50% strength. Our kitchen color is a lot more complicated as it truly was a custom color that does not exist in any formula. You're welcome to give it a try with your local BM dealer, but I'm not sure if they will be able to duplicate the result. Hope this is helpful!!
Living Room: 199 Barley. Trim: 2153-70
Dining Room: Aura in Caliente. Trim: Linen White
Family Room: 2153-50 Desert Tan. Trim: 2153-70
Brian Office: HC-38. Trim: 2153-70
Hallways: HC-38 @ 50%. Trim: 2153-70
Cynthia Office: HC-115 Georgian Green. Trim: White Dove
Nook: HC-121. Trim: HC-38 @ 50%.
Babies' Room: will be Good Vibrations (don't have number handy). Trim: White Dove
Guest Room: HC-153 Marlborough Blue. Trim: Navajo White.
Master Bedroom: HC-80. Trim: White Dove.
Master Bath: HC-80. Trim: White Dove
Downstairs Full Bath: 2135-60. Trim: White Dove.
Powder Room: HC-156 (Hale Navy?). Trim: Bone White.
Kitchen: OY: 20 BK: 2.0 OG: 5.0 YW: 1.0 BB: 1.0 WH: 2.0 (1b) Trim: White Dove 50%
Long overdue, but here are some new photos of the current state of a bunch of our projects. These are much more about decorating and less about renovation, but it's still relevant, I guess! We do still have a few renovation-type projects to do in the next few months, so we will be posting about those as we go as well.
First up, the front staircase. The "Before" picture is when we first saw the house--note the fact that the entire staircase was painted with what turned out to be multiple layers of thick white oil paint from many many years, as well as a rotting runner that literally tore to shreds when we removed it. We also removed, by hand, hundreds of staples and nails that were holding down the rotting runner. Nice! The intervening ones were taken at various points during renovations. The final pic on the right is how it looks today. This is one of the few projects in the house which we basically did ourselves from start to finish. the only thing we didn't do ourselves was stain and poly of the stair treads, since our floor guys did that when they did the rest of the floors.
Next up, something that looks quite minor but in fact has been incredibly time-consuming. We have lovely board and batten doors in much of the oldest part of the house, however with babies on the way, the positive results on lead test kits had us seriously considering throwing historical accuracy to the wind in favor of safety. We compromised, and are stripping and repainting several of them, and replacing some of the closet doors (which are not fully original to the house anyway) with modern doors. Yes, even old house lovers need to put the safety of their kids first! Here's an in-progress shot of one of these lovely old doors in mid-strip. Yet another shout-out to the wonders of Peel Away!
More obligatory dining room photos for your enjoyment. OK, in reality, these are for OUR enjoyment because this room is the closest thing we have to "finished". It's really only missing artwork, which is both hard to find and ridiculously expensive. We'll get there, though!
Before we bought the house...
And once we got our clutches into it:
Our guest room is also coming along nicely...no "before" pictures handy of this one, so here's how it looks now.
And naturally, the requisite floorboard bragging rights shot--please note that Brian single-handedly refinished these gorgeous floors using a very creative voodoo method involving fireplace ash, among other things. I think he did a fantastic job!
Now for the living room.. This room has been a long time coming, and it's still not done, obviously, but we're making good progress. The major furniture pieces have arrived, though we are still awaiting chairs ordered from The Federalist and drapes ordered from Ethan Allen; we're also still hunting for a highboy and occasional tables. Several pieces shown in this photo series (including the French table near the wing chair, and the much-hated painting propped on the mantelpiece) are not staying where they are, but you get the general idea.
Here's the "before" shot, when we first saw the house. The previous owner had some beautiful pieces, by the way, none of which we were able to acquire. instead, we acquired a whole lot of broken office furniture, random "decorative" brass plaques, cookware, a few broken appliances in the front yard (no I am not kidding) and a whole lot of mice and flooding problems!
Aside from the very obvious paint job and redecoration of this room, we also removed and re-jiggered a lot of smaller elements, including refitting moldings and removing some weirdly placed corner beads which were not at all original to the house. These simple changes made the ceiling height appear much higher, which is a big deal when your ceilings are only 7'6"! We also installed a ceiling fixture, which was oddly absent.
And finally, after over five years of marriage, our Ketubah has an appropriate place of honor in our home! Amazingly, our marriage is also still intact even after 3 years of house renovations.
Moving to a different area, we realized recently that we never posted a photo of the house after the siding and roof were completed this summer. So, here's a before and after, even though this was taken in late summer. Lots of subtle changes here including gutter placement, larger corner framing and window trim, etc. The biggest change is really functional, though, in terms of insulation value and the assurance that our roof isn't going to leak!
And last but not least, just because we like to do it, here's a recent photo of our dogs enjoying the snow last week. Ain't they cute?!!
Thanks so much to everyone who has posted comments and their congratulations!! After a friend and fellow houseblogger left one particular comment, I realized that I was unclear about something: the nursery is not currently the master bedroom, it was the master bedroom before we bought the house. The former owners used it as their master, and it's quite large (held two twin beds plus other furniture). When we bought the house we renovated two other bedrooms and a bathroom in the newer part of the house to make the new master suite. We're not giving that up for the babies! I have to draw the line somewhere! LOL
Between the time of my last post and today, we have actually decided to make a few extra changes in the nursery, so as requested here are some "Before" photos. We're actually removing one closet that was clearly an afterthought-addition by the previous owners, and that will improve the flow in the room significantly, as well as alleviating one door/door frame from the lead paint equation. We are also going to replace several board and batten doors with new doors, again largely due to the lead paint concerns (as nearly all the doors in the entire room tested positive for lead!). We're keeping the main door to the room as its original board & batten door, but as I write this, Brian is up there stripping the paint off with trusty Peel Away 7.
So, without further ado, here are some quick shots of the babies' room. These pics make the room look sort of dark and gloomy, but it's definitely not. In fact, it has gorgeous light since the exposures are due south and east. I just take bad pictures, apparently!
Missing floorboards due to radiator removal 2 years ago...to the far left in this photo, you can see the little closet we're removing:
This bedroom also has an en suite bathroom, which will make life a lot easier when the twins arrive. No good pics of it at the moment, as it's only about 95% complete, but will post pics when it's done. The bathroom mirror actually just arrived yesterday, which isa relief since there was only about 18" of space in which to fit a mirror and we weren't sure we could find one that would fit properly.
It's finally time to spill the beans!! We are extremely excited to announce that we are expecting TWINS! Our due date is actually in July but for a variety of reasons we expect the babies to arrive in June. We've been a bit coy about sharing this news, partially out of superstition and partially because we've been down a very, very long road of trying repeatedly to have children and have suffered many losses along the way. I can't tell you how ecstatic we are to be able to finally tell the world at large that not only do we have one little one on the way, but TWO!
That being said, it means a LOT of home projects in not a lot of time. The impending arrival of the babies is one of the reasons we've been on a furniture buying binge recently. In addition to the furnishings we posted about last time, we have also purchased two beautiful Chippendale chairs from a custom fabricator, and a sectional and a few other things for our family room. Yes, the mysterious family room which has never been photographed, LOL! Speaking of furniture, by the way, we got a real surprise this week: the pieces we ordered on January 1st from Ethan Allen are already ready! They'll be arriving Thursday, so we will try to take pics in the daylight next weekend.
Naturally in addition to madly rushing to finish up the common rooms of the house, we're also preparing the babies' room, and with that comes some special projects unique to an old house.
Our current punch list includes the following (and I'm sure I'm forgetting some things!):
1) Remove any and all traces of lead paint on all doors & frames upstairs. Not sure why we've procrastinated on this for the past three years, but there you have it: now we absolutely have to get it done! We're going to do this work ourselves, albeit carefully, and will mostly do it in the basement to avoid any stray lead dust anywhere near the babies.
2) A small closet removal/addition project in the family room. This is basically to help facilitate the laundry-doing, which I am sure will get out of control quickly with twins. Right now, our laundry chute goes from the master bedroom down to a closet in the family room directly below, and then I need to haul the clothes from there around a long wall and into the hallway immediately behind the family room. That's stupid and a waste of effort, so we're just reversing the opening of the closet so that it can open from the closet near the washer & dryer instead. This will also give us room to put our new sectional where we'd like to have it situated.
3) Finish painting in babies' bathroom (mostly interiors of cabinets), and paint the babies' bedroom. For the bedroom, we're using a lovely warmish neutral yellow called "Good Vibrations", from Benjamin Moore of course. This will blend beautifully with the sage and butter color scheme we're using. The furnishings for the babies will be antique white, and it's pretty much all coming from Pottery Barn Kids. Pictures below!
4) Myriad other projects, mostly small, but all time-consuming. They include mentally preparing for baby-proofing, as well as actual tangible stuff we need to get done before we dive into parenthood.
But anyway, back to the fun stuff!! Baby furniture, woo hoo! Here's the crib style we're using:
And we'll also have room for a nice loveseat in there, which will make feedings easier. This is the one we're using, but ours will be in their "Butter" color:
Here's the Butter color, just for reference:
And here's the changing table:
Since the babies' room is the former master bedroom, it's plenty big enough for the two kids and all their attendant paraphernalia, at least until they reach an age where we'll give them separate bedrooms. Not exactly sure what age that should be (we believe it's a boy and a girl) but hopefully we have at least a couple of years to worry about it!