A peek at the pocket doors.

It seems crazy that in all the times we looked at the house before we bought it and in the nearly four months since we moved in that we hadn’t opened (or is it we haven’t closed them?!) the giant pocket doors to the dining room.  I would estimate that these doors are probably over three hundred pounds each.  They are eight feet tall and three inches thick. The one from the living room is off the track and we were nervous about pulling out the one in the entry fearing we would pull it off the track as well and we would be stuck with it open (closed?)

We had a nice visit with two members of the Women of the Old West End on Sunday.  We were discussing the possibility of having our home on their tour at Christmas time.  (As if our life isn’t crazy enough already!)  Matt got brave and pulled out the pocket door that is on the track and was able to pull out the other one by carefully lifting it up.

Because all the rooms on the first floor have different molding we knew the doors would match the rooms they faced.  I was still surprised at how different each of these giant doors are.  They both open into the dining room and even the two sides there are not identical.   The first floor feels very different with the rooms closed off from one and other.  Our house has a very open concept floor plan for a home built in 1901.  It was one of the things that surprised me and that I like very much about the house.

Here is your peek at the pocket doors:

The entry way/dining room pocket door

The entry way/dining room pocket door. Quarter sawn oak on this side

The brass door pull

The brass door pull

The dining room side of the same door, wormy chestnut.

The dining room side of the same door, wormy chestnut.

Close up of this side of the door pulls.  Not sure why there is one placed higher in the middle?

Close up of this side of the door pulls. Not sure why there is one placed higher in the middle?

The living room side in mahogany. This is the one off the track.

The living room side in mahogany. This is the one off the track.

Close up of this door pull

Close up of this door pull

The dining room side of the door.

The dining room side of the door.

The dining room door with a plain brass plate.  This door does have a pull inside.

The dining room door with a plain brass plate. This door does have a brass pull handle inside.

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Finally! A less dusty living room.

Almost as soon as we arrived, the plumber had to put a hole in the living room ceiling to repair the shower in youngest daughter’s bathroom.  Much like the music room, this began as a small hole to see what was going on and slowly more and more needed to be opened.  We soon discovered that the radiator in her room also was in need of repair.  We had the option of through the floor or through the ceiling.  Since the ceiling was already opened we went in that way.  Eventually the hole had to extend into the coved ceiling.  We all worried that we would not be able to repair the cove in the plaster work.  Although I seem to have not taken a picture before the work began, I do have this picture of the patch.  It may not look like it,  but this was a rather large corner of the living room ceiling that is missing.

The whole in the living room ceiling

The hole in the living room ceiling

The dust and sometimes water that came out of the hole made me crazy all summer.  It has been an impossible job to eradicate the dust.  Now that we have the hole covered I am hopeful that my daily dusting will be a little easier.

After (but still need paint)

After (but still need paint)

The repair came out great.  We will need to repaint the ceiling (and maybe skim coat the whole thing) but once that is done I don’t think anyone will ever be able to tell this was patched.

The conclusion (almost) to the story under the shower.

We talked about all the damage done on the first floor music room.  We have nearly finished the restoration work there.

What looked like a very nice room, if you don't look too closely.

What looked like a very nice room, if you don’t look too closely.

The room had some funky metallic and orange wallpaper.  You can’t tell from the photo but there was plaster crumbling behind the paper above the confessional window (have I mentioned our home has a confessional?!) above the built in leaded glass cabinets on both sides of the room and visible damage on the ceiling.  The ceiling is clearly not original and while the period art deco chandelier is pretty, it doesn’t fit with the home’s architecture.  We put the room on the to do list.

Soon we discovered most of the problems here came from the leaking plumbing in the master shower.  So we had to open up the ceiling:


Then open  it some more:


Eventually we had to remove the whole ceiling, actually there were at least four ceilings.


My guess is whenever the water damage got noticeable or perhaps when an owner decided to sell the house they didn’t fix the problem but covered up the ceiling with a new one.  In the process we found the original lay out for the ceiling and the painted canvas mural that was original on the ceiling.


Ceiling had originally had the corners dropped down to allow for the plumbing, similar to old photo album corners.


The intact side of the original ceiling mural

The water damaged pieces we first discovered

The water damaged pieces we first discovered

The plumber found the first pieces and we were shocked to discover most of the mural was still intact.  We made the decision to try to take the ceiling back up to its original height.  This was made a little complicated due to the plumbing repairs we had made.  We couldn’t restore the ceiling to the original height with just the corners dropped down.  The plumber actually suggested having the center of the ceiling at its original height and adding a cove or tray to the edges that would give the room a more modern look and hide the plumbing.  We thought it was a great solution and moved forward with the plan.  We decided to put can lights in the tray to highlight the cabinets and doors and not put a center light back in since there was not one here originally

We still need to paint and plan to add trim and a rope light around the tray. Here is how it came out:

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Leaded mahogany cabinets and arched window

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The repaired wall around the confessional window

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view of the new tray ceiling

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The other side of the room

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With the lights on.

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The tray at the original ceiling height.

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View from the living room.

My sister was an art major in college and she thinks she can recreate the ceiling mural in the tray.  I am looking forward to seeing if we can do that and think it would be so great. I wonder how long it has been since anyone has seen that original mural? It will be great to restore that piece of the home’s history.

The Neglected Garden

We are on a corner lot. The front door and driveway face a busy street but that is not the street that is our address.  On this side the lot is actually a city block long.  We have a small fenced yard behind the kitchen, a small yard that is technically the front yard, a side yard that faces the busy road and a long section that stretches from the driveway to the street behind us. It is hard to know what to call each section of our yard.  The whole thing was beyond a mess when we arrived.  The lawn is mostly weeds and little grass.  The landscaping contains mostly weeds that were feet high.  There are several trees in the backyard and beside the house that had never had a trim and were taking over their little corners of the world.  At one point there had been a water feature in the long back yard and another in the fenced part of the back yard.  We also were the owners of a chicken coop.

The priorities when we arrived were to get the house unpacked and have functioning plumbing and heating systems.  Both are still a work in progress but enough has been done that we can comfortably (though slightly inconvenienced) live in the house.

Eventually our attention turned to some outside improvements.  Our suburban home we left behind had a pool and a hot tub.  I am not sure if the pool will be an option here in the future but we knew the hot tub had to be replaced.  We took down the chicken coop and built a small concrete paver pad to put in the new hot tub.

About a week after we arrived, construction on our busy side street began.  That is a separate post but part of that project required removing the original sand stone sidewalk sections.  Homeowners were offered the stones from their property if they wanted them.  We kept all of ours and then some.  More later about that!  Matt used some of the broken pieces to make a nice patio around the hot tub.

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We split a bunch of the hosta from my old garden ( I may have a small hosta problem and I couldn’t leave then all behind) and planted them in the “rock garden” for now.  I am not sure this will be their permanent home but it is shady and a big improvement in the yards appearance.

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Next Matt’s brother (the landscape architect!) took pity on our yard while he was visiting and he tackled the front flower beds and tree trimming projects.  The yard now is vastly improved and no longer the worst garden in the neighborhood.

Crazy overgrown tree, trimmed.  Yard space doubled. Reallly, it was that overgrown.

Crazy overgrown tree, trimmed. Yard space doubled. Really, it was that overgrown.

There is a front door!  Who knew?

There is a front door! Who knew?

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“Volunteer” trees gone

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Weeds cleared, ready for some proper landscaping

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A few keepers found buried in the weeds

The garden is still in need of attention but it is greatly improved.  Several neighbors have been kind enough to express gratitude that we are here and that the house and yard are finally getting some love.  At least now it is a less neglected garden!

Checking Things Off the List

There has been a lot of action at our home in the last few weeks.  The kids are all back in school and we have been hosting family from both coasts and from another country.

Our home is far from completed and is still in fact a construction zone but we did manage to knock a few items off the list before all the guests arrived.

The biggest project to come off the to do list was the completion of the third floor bathroom.  The bathroom that was here when we bought the house looks like it came from a 1970 mobile home.  Really, it was that bad.

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This little bath was wedged in under the rafters.  You stepped up one step from the narrow hall into this nightmare.  There is carpet on the floor and none of the fixtures is working.  Rather than remodel this awkward and ugly space we decided to convert the smallest of the four third floor bedrooms into a new bathroom.  They say bathrooms and kitchens are good investments and I don’t think having eight bedrooms instead of nine will negatively impact our home value.


The smallest bedroom as we began our project

The closet before becoming the toilet room

The closet before becoming the toilet room

The project was a great success.  We are really pleased with how everything turned out.  There are still a few loose ends to finish, trim pieces to put back up, a new light fixture in the toilet room but it certainly made having guests here easier.

new toilet room

new toilet room

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Cute bathroom!

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Brand new but still reflects the vintage charm of the house

There are still plenty of bathrooms that need some attention but it was nice to have the third floor one completed.  All the other full bathrooms in this house are en suites so this is the only bathroom that is accessible from a hallway.  Much nicer option for guests than to have to go through someone’s bedroom to get to a shower.  Oddly, the master bath will also have hallway access once it is finished.  Work is under way on that one again this week and we may finally have a master shower by the weekend!