Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Library's Open



 Finally some photos from the 2-year long transformation of our "new" library.

This room is the original nursery of the house: or so we believe. All decor (it has been redecorated more than any other room in the house) appear to be child-related. The most recent ones definitely were (including Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Harry Potter, and Star Wars themes.) And the original wallpaper was a pink and blue abstract design with a gilt pattern. That pink and blue pattern was not at all what I expected to find adhered to the bare plaster. The woodwork in the room has always been painted—there is no stain or clear finish on the wood under layers and layers of paint.

This room had a lot of damage, too. Water, plaster issues, floor damage and electrical issues add up to the reason it's taken us 2 years to (almost) complete it.

There are some paint touch ups to do. And I need to find a long (looooong) paint brush to paint the wall behind the radiator. And a yet-to-be-done electrical repair. We also have some things to put into place, including photos and other framed art.

Let me know what you think.

This is the room as it appeared when we purchased the house. That's a Harry Potter border running around the middle of the room.

Scraping layers of wallpaper and repairing tons of damage to the walls was very time consuming.
Original wallpaper scraps

The big patch on the ceiling and wall where the chimney from the fireplace below leaked - for decades. There were about 35 small patches made over the years in this one area.

More of a storage space during renovation.

Adding "panelling" and patching more damaged plaster next to the window. I use Water Putty (the tan spot on the wall) for a lot of my patching - it never shrinks and as long as you oil prime it, it can be used successfully outdoors.

It's a pretty moody room. Dark, cool and perfect for reading, studying or getting real work done. Two desks—a drop-front and a cylinder desk—allow for easy and separate working.

We love to add beautiful fireplace mantles where there aren't fireplaces (see the Parlor). I have yet to install the sconces, so for now the wires and electrical boxes are hanging out with the pelican.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sneaking Into the Library

Worked all day to get the library ready for the upcoming house tour. Soon I'll post a full recap of what happened in there as we turned the 110 year old nursery into a sombre library. Here are some sneak peaks until then.  Hope you enjoy.

A cozy place to sit while you work.

Look kids, a web-footed birdie.

Keeping papers in order with an Eastlake-style paperweight.

Springbok ... nuff said ...

Lighting up the desk in a nineteenth century way.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Quick Look Back

Over the past few months we have been working "gangbusters" to get the house ready for a house tour next week. It's down to the wire and there's still a lot to be done. (How good are you at sanding? Are you free this weekend?)

In preparation for the tour, a new photo of the house was taken. Looking at it I can see all that we have accomplished over the past 3 years. I thought you might like to see how much has changed.


  • Scraped and painted the whole exterior (ok, I have one window in the back of the house to paint, but the frame requires a little rebuild work, so it's still red. Seriously, though: who paints their house red white and blue?)
  • Removed all of the aluminum flashing, repaired and in some places replaced missing wood trim in as original fashion as possible (2 spots still hold onto the flashing, but I'll remove those soon.)
  • Pulled out, repaired, and painted the porch lattice panels (right, the one in front isn't back in place in this photo. It's in the garage awaiting some final touches.)
  • Yanked out all of the overgrown sad shrubbery all around the house. 
  • Planted rose and perennial gardens, and installed a Japanese tea garden.
  • Put a whole new roof on the day after we moved in.
  • New gutters, too
  • That's a new porch light, too.
  • Replaced a broken cement walk way with a spiffy brick one (the bricks were courtesy of the back yard where a brick garden bed edge was found under layers of soil and weed fabric. In some places the bricks were 3-deep.)
  • Those urns were installed 2 summers ago.
  • Chimneys cleaned and repaired. Some new caps were added to thwart off water infiltration.

And those were just the big things on the outside. Can't wait for a look back next spring. Here's the before and after photos, cause, admit it, we all love these things:



How sad this Google Maps photo is. 



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Plain to Fancy


Like most old houses (in our neighborhood) we have glass in the front door. It's Oak, super strong, reinforced with old beveled tempered hurricane glass. It needs some finish work after years of being exposed to the elements (a couple years ago I slathered on a few coats of shellac just as a temporary preventative.)

Unlike most of the doors in the neighborhood, ours has plain glass. Theirs have leaded, etched, patterned designs and I am jealous of them. When we moved in there were gathered cafe-style curtains cinched up top and bottom to provide a little privacy. But they were dusty, dingy grey and came down a few hours after moving in. We've lived in plain view of all the neighbors for years since.

To provide that privacy we lost with the curtains, I had in mind an etched pattern, similar to many I see on the paired interior doors of Italianate homes. I dug through my archives of patterns and found a greco-style pattern of anthemion and greek key that would do nicely on the front door. A fanciful explosion of Neo Grec stuff. I designed it in Adobe Illustrator, but I never had the pattern cut to do the etching.

Then a spark of genius: Why etch it when I can get a gigantic faux frosted glass vinyl sticker made. I won't harm the original glass, and its so much less messy. And being the consummate DIY-er, what if I screwed it up while I was doing the etching? I could barely mess up a giant sticker.

Procrastination Pays Off

I waited nearly a year to contact a local sign maker. When I did, I got a great price for cutting the vinyl. I stopped in their shop and chose the translucent vinyl (that mimics frosted glass) and got ready to send in the Illustrator file I created.

Then I created an even better design of an Eastlake-style flower in a pot. I struggled to create the highly symmetrical design in Illustrator in a timely manner since there's that house tour coming up in a couple of weeks. I was even able to incorporate the house number into the design. Many of the old houses in my "hood" have gilt and black painted house numbers in the transom above the front door, similar to ones I know you have seen in San Francisco row houses. We have leaded glass in that location and cannot put the number up there. The number, too, is cut vinyl in a metallic gold color and black. I simply layered the vinyl to get he appearance of back painted glass house numbers (the back is solid black, just the way the original gold-leaf numbers are)

It took about 4 hours to install the huge sticker, after watching many You Tube videos of just how to do it. It's tricky, but not difficult. The flower is cut out to expose the clear glass. Thanks Chris (from Precision Signs) for sending a whole bunch of extra leaf veins. At about 1/8-1/16 of an inch thick, they tore pretty easily, so it was good to have the extras for replacement.

If I tire of this design, I can change it. Maybe one day I can buck-up and etch the design onto the glass and actually gild the number. Until then, this looks pretty darned nice.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Enjoying Spring in the Japanese Garden

When we bought our old stone house the gardens were thicketed, dried-up, overgrown messes. The front yard was plastered with untrimmed shrubs and the back yard, wow ... what a mess. I awaited spring when we first moved in to see if I could salvage any of the plants. Except for a couple of azaleas, fully-grown Magnolia and Dogwood trees, and one tilted sad looking huge Japanese maple, there was nothing worth saving. That sad old lilac spent her life sharing root and air space with the more successful maple. Her last batch of sumptuous flowers graced the parlor that first spring.

Since I had to essentially start over, and with my passion for Japanese, I sprung for a rugged, Wabi Sabi Japanese inner tea garden. There are 3 parts to a classical tea garden, the outer, middle and inner gardens. The distinction of the innermost garden is that it is the most natural. No clipped shrubs, very little color, and it looks and feels its best sopping wet.

I sketched out a rough layout incorporating the three large trees, added in a dry creek, and created undulating surface from what was a dead-flat yard filled with bricks (2-bricks-deep edging, all over) and landscape fabric (3 layers of it with an inch of soil between each.)

The garden will take years, maybe decades, to get to the point I envision, but here are some spring photos of the textures and color I have introduced. Hope you enjoy.

This tiny fern was one my neighbor didn't want any longer.

I add moss every chance I get.

Japanese Maple Shishigashira

Prized Japanese Maple Shirisawarum Aurum

Sensitive Ferns

Japanese Maple Koto No Ito. This is a Linearlobum type, whose leaves are little more than threads.


Service Berry, a native tree that blooms sparkling white in spring, gets violet berries in summer, copper foliage in autumn, and silver grey bark in winter. Its the perfect small tree.

Lungwort, the perfect plant for shade.

Huge Blue Hosta

Geum

This is not moss ... I am looking for what this tiny volunteer plant is. its lovely and always looks waxy and wet.


The trunk of the Japanese Maple that I inherited. Its growing into a good tree, albeit, with a ton of work.

Ruby Azaleas from a neighbor.


Dawn Redwood

Japanese Maple Ryu Sen


Japanese Maple Viridis in bloom. Those intense crimson flowers are about 2 millimeters across.

Japanese White Pine


Viridis

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

WE ALL LOVE BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURES

The Parlor


Both photos show the same wall. There were evident plans to add a fireplace (from the huge stone hearth int eh basement ceiling) but it never materialized ... so I got my own.





The Exterior







 Bathroom (sometimes you need more than one before photo to show the horror)

That tile originally was aqua green plastic, painted a few coats of white (with a brush), then some of dreariest colors added.




Window and door trim still needed.