Farewell Cowboy Room, Hello Beach!

Oldest daughter has not slept well since we moved.  A year ago!

Her bedroom adventure reminds me of The Princess and the Pea!  First, we tried getting her a king size bed because her double felt like doll house furniture in her very large room.  Next we tried the bed in several different places.  Still not sleeping well.  We got new curtains.  Didn’t help.  Tried several different fans for white noise.  No difference.  Since she stopped using her bathroom when it got cold and uses our master/hall bathroom instead she decided to try some different bedroom options.  She tried the blue room on the third floor.  She did better there for a little while but not a huge improvement.  A few  weeks ago, her room was really hot and she couldn’t fall asleep so I put her in the cowboy room.  She slept great. I thought it might be because she was so exhausted but she tried it for a few more nights  and decided she really liked it.

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The “cowboy” room was a guest room.

We never got around to actually painting and decorating her room here.  Honestly, I have never been good about doing the kids room.  We switched them around a lot.  I never did a nursery with a theme.  I could blame the kids early arrivals on that but I probably wouldn’t have done the whole theme room either way.  We promised the girls as part of moving here that we would actually “do” their rooms.  Youngest is very persistent and knew what she wanted so hers did get done.  Older daughter is the opposite in every way.  She is our go along girl.  She never made a decision about her room colors.  She never complained about her room.  We didn’t give her room much thought.  Apparently she has been unhappy in her partially done room and sure if she switched rooms, we wouldn’t get the new one done either.  I told her if she made some choices we would gladly get her room done.  It has been about 10 days and she FINALLY picked color .  I think she wanted something brighter but I managed to talk her into these colors:

Rushing Stream


Burning Coals


The room looks a lot different now!  The mural was on the wall where she has placed the bed.

The closet in the room she is moving from is the best one in the house.  It is big with tons of built ins.  The closet in this new room has a sink and then a very small closet space with one shelf and a short bar for hanging clothes. The sink works but the water flow is inadequate.  Time to get the plumber back.  The sink in the closet is a bit of a mystery.  All the other bedrooms on the second floor have a full bath.  We can’t figure out why this one has only a sink and the sink appears to be original to the home.  There was a sink in the room off the master that we use as our walk in closet.  We know that sink was put in when that room was converted to a bedroom when the priests resided here.  The purpose of this sink is a mystery but since oldest daughter has been sing our shower, the sink gives her a place to brush her teeth and wash her face so it is going to work for her.

There is not enough storage in their for a teenage girl.  Even one who isn’t really concerned with having a lot of clothes and dresses more for comfort than style.  As part of moving her into this smaller room, we agreed to clean up the hall closet next to this room for her to store things in.

More on that project soon.  It has proven to be more work than getting the bedroom ready! Here is a peek at the closet…


Yes, there are three different colors of green paint in here! None of them is a good green color.


We still need to finish painting the closet and move all her things in here.  I will look for some “beachy” décor to complete the look and make new curtains but we are getting close and she is certainly sleeping better which was the best part.








Summer Sunset

It was a hot and humid Sunday.  As we were starting dinner, a quick thunderstorm rolled in and cooled things off a bit.  We decided to walk the dogs after dinner.  Along the way we saw a double rainbow (a rainbow that you could see all the colors twice) with another rainbow over it.  It was really beautiful. I asked if anyone brought their phones so we could take a picture  and the kids all said no.  How is it possible that I had two teenagers and three kids in their twenties with me and no cell phones?!

As we came up the driveway, Matt commented on how pretty the sunset looked through the clouds behind the house.  He proceeded to pull out his cell phone (he could have mentioned he had it when we wanted a picture of the rainbow!) and took this picture:

house at sunset

The house seems to be glowing!

I can see clearly now…

the tree is gone! 

See the giant tree on the right hand side of the picture?  The one behind the van? It is a mulberry tree planted at the edge of the driveway.  I failed to take a before picture but this is from around 2010 I believe.  The mulberry was providing some nice shade but it produced so much fruit.  The birds sat in the tree and ate the berries.  Then we had berries falling on the cars and driveway as well as all the birds pooping on the cars.  It was a huge mess.  As the berries fell to the ground, they began to rot.  Now we had an awful stinky mess!  Not sure who thought mulberry trees were a good idea.  There are three here now and the previous owner removed one that was in front of the porch.  Since they are all about the same size and evenly placed, I am guessing they were put there intentionally.  The tree guy estimates they are about 50 years old.

Larry the tree guy came and took the mulberry down Saturday.  We are missing the shade but not the mess. He will be back in the next few weeks to take out the mulberry near the center of the yard as well as a couple of dead/near dead trees and three junk trees that stick out into the center of the yard.  Once the trees are gone and we clean out all the “volunteers” and other scrub brush from the yard, we plan to put up a privacy fence.  It will be great to have this part of the yard connect to the small part of the yard that is fenced now.  We hope it will feel like the property is all connected.

Next spring we will (hopefully!) add a pool.  It looks a lot different with the tree gone.  We will have to get used to it for sure.

They don’t have anything to do with the tree being removed but here are two more pictures from the yard that I thought my in-laws would like to see!


New urns we got last weekend.  There are six!


Youngest daughter’s passion flower

Summertime Suppers

As I mentioned before, the front porch was enclosed sometime after 1913.  I really like the way the house looked without the glass enclosure but we certainly enjoy our enclosed front porch.  In the summer this is our main dining and entertaining space.  It is covered from the sun or rain.  There aren’t any nasty mosquitos or other flying things.  I close the windows and draw the drapes in the morning.  In the evening as it begins to cool down outside it is easy to open up the porch and cool it down pretty quickly.

The end that faces the driveway is the east side of the house.  The morning sun come in and it heats up pretty quickly.  To help eliminate that I looked for some nice outdoor curtains last year.  I ran into two problems.  How do you put up curtain rods on leaded glass windows that are in metal frames and how do I afford outdoor curtains.  I was shocked at how expensive they were!  My solution was Command hooks and shower curtains!


It works great to keep out the sun.  I was pretty set on painting the blue and green on the porch when we moved in but it is pretty low on the to do list so I decided to work with it instead of against it.  The blue and white  looked nice with the existing paint and I have decided to just embrace the nautical feel we seem to have going on.

We removed the chandeliers that were out on the porch.  They were pretty but we needed something with more light and some way of circulating the air.  We replaced them with these 72 inch fans that are controlled with a remote.  They certainly are not turn of the century fixtures but they do make the space more functional for us.  We packed up the chandeliers for now and plan to put them up in other parts of the house that currently have really bad 1960 flush mounted ceiling fixtures.


We have found we tend to all head out here for meals in the summer.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are eaten here and the dining room table has mostly been used for folding laundry.  Youngest son spends most of his day out here.  He even brought out his hammock he got while on a mission trip to Guatemala  to try and put it up so he could sleep on the porch.  We might have to get a hammock stand.  He has the same problem I had with the curtains.  Hard to attach hooks on metal window frames or the solid block of the walls.


There were two old pews on the porch when we got here.  They were huge and ugly.  Matt gave away the larger one to someone he works with.  It was refurnished and looked beautiful.  Matt decided to keep the smaller one and do the same thing himself.  It came out great and adds some nice additional seating on the porch.

We are enjoying our “outdoor space.”  It is fun to look out at the park, watch all the people walk by and share a summertime supper or a cocktail with friends.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

It has been just over a year since we moved to our mansion.  Everyone who comes by comments on how much we have accomplished in that time.  Reflecting on it, we really have accomplished a lot although most of what we have done is behind the walls and nobody sees it-unless you read about it here!  Now we would like to start working on projects that will make the house feel more like home.  This is a beautiful house and has wonderful architectural details but there is still something missing.  I am not sure what that is.

I thought after being here for a year and celebrating all our birthdays and holidays here that it would feel like home. In a lot of ways it does but I think fitting ourselves into the history of the house takes some time.  I walk up the steps or turn a doorknob or put linens away in the linen room (can’t really call it a closet!) I think abut all the people that have done this before.  In a lot of ways I find it comforting to think how many other people have done these same things in this house.  I especially appreciate that this house was the residence for the Oblate Fathers.  I enjoy thinking about all the prayers and masses that were said in our house.  It seems fitting that we should have found our way here.

One thing that seems to hold us back from feeling like this is home is due to its historical significance.  We have had many visitors in the past year but it feels like most of our guests are really here to see the house, not us!  Over time that will pass.  For now, I feel like a tour guide more often than a hostess.  It makes it feel like we are living in a museum rather than our family home.  I know people are curious about the house and want to see it but it is my family’s home and should be treated that way.  If we still lived in the suburbs, the people who visited would never ask to have a tour.  I hate when people want to see the whole house, especially the private spaces.  You would never go to someone’s house and ask to see their bedrooms and bathrooms.  If you stop by, we will probably be happy to show you some of the house but please don’t ask to see where we sleep and brush our teeth.  You probably wouldn’t want me to see those places in your house.  I hope as time goes by we have more people here visiting us and not the house.

Looking back, here are just some of the things we have managed to accomplish in no particular order:

  • Freshen up the kitchen


  • Gut and restore the music room
  • Remove the carpet from the main stairs and the back stairs
  • Remove the scary bird wallpaper from the entry
  • Horrible mural removed in the dining room
  • Kids rooms painted
  • Living room ceiling patched, as well as the plumbing above the ceiling
  • New Furnace!
  • Updates in master bathroom, youngest daughters bathroom and powder room
  • 1980 pink paint gone from the stairwell and upstairs hallway
  • Repaired leaking roofs, flat roofs sealed and new gutters
  • Many yard improvements
  • New third floor bathroom that you can use
  • Hot tub instead of a chicken coop

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Not to mention repairing the plumbing so we now have all but three fixtures that are in working order.  When we arrived a year ago, there were only three fixtures that worked! We have really accomplished a lot.

Hopefully this summer will remain mostly contractor free. I have a few things on my to do list.

  1. Move oldest daughter to the “cowboy” room, oldest son to her room and make oldest son’s room the second floor guest room with an attached en suite.
  2. Apply a shinny sealer to the mosaic tiles in the sunroom and front porch and the terrazzo in the kitchen.  The floors look so nice when they are wet and I am sure they have not been properly sealed in a long time.
  3. Ask and plead with my sister to recreate the painted ceiling canvas for the music room.
  4. Clean, organize and improve functionality of the laundry room.
  5. Organize the linen room and hall storage room on the second floor.  Maybe look at repainting or stripping off the paint in those spaces.  Much of it is peeling off and I suspect it is lead based.  it needs to be removed or encased in new paint.
  6. Sand the main stairs and varnish them.
  7. Paint the bunny room on the third floor.  Again this is a potential lead paint issue. Fixing up this room would give us three bedrooms on the third floor plus a futon in the chapel which would give everyone a place to sleep where there is air conditioning on those hot summer nights that don’t cool off.

Sounds like a fun summer!

Not the Worst Yard on the Block!

It has been just over a year since we moved in.  This past week was the Old West End Festival.  A chance to show off our great, eclectic neighborhood.  We had been here less than a week when festival came around last year and while we might not have had the worst yard in the neighborhood, it was probably  in the top ten.  We worked very hard to make some big improvements before this festival weekend.  I am sure most of the neighbors have been able to calculate the extent of work that has gone on inside the house (based on the contractor trucks in the driveway) and I am sure they appreciate all the effort that no one will ever see but we wanted to put some effort into the yard that would be very much on display to the thousands of guests visiting.  Our house and lot is very visible in the neighborhood and I would guess this house is probably the most recognized.

Here are some pictures of the yard now.  You’ll have to look back at the posts from Spring Has Sprung…? and The Neglected Garden to really appreciate the difference.


Youngest Makes a Discovery

There is a lot of history that comes with living in an historic home.  We have been given a lot of information and some we have found to be true and some turned out to be less than accurate.  For example, we were told the pews on the front porch were originally in the third floor chapel.  Not true.  We believe someone probably purchased them at a local church and realized when they got them here, that there was no way to get them in the house.  We have the original blue prints from the chapel and the pews are pictured in the plans.  The  ones on the porch are very different than the ones in the blueprints.

We were told the third floor originally was a ballroom converted to a chapel but the plans seem to detail the chapel installation in a space that was previously servants quarters or unfinished space.  Which explains why access to the third floor is only through the back staircase.  You would never have had guests attending a ball or great party without a fancy staircase or at the very least, stairs that would be wide enough to get a ball gown up!

Youngest daughter was looking up pictures of the house and found these:



The photos were taken prior to the porch and sunroom being enclosed.  The really interesting part is the laundry room and two of the second story bathrooms are not here.  That means none of those spaces is original to the house.  We had been told the room we use as our laundry room off the kitchen was originally the servants dining room.  This makes a lot of things make more sense.  The upstairs bathrooms overhang the kitchen windows making it a very dark room.  Without that bump out upstairs, the kitchen would be so much brighter.  Oldest daughters room and the master bath are at a wonky angle that allows you to see into the spaces from the other room.  That never made sense to me and now we know why.  It happened when they bumped out that space.

We enjoy our enclosed front porch and use that room like a three season room.  Most of our meals in the summer are eaten out there and it is a great space for a cup of coffee in the morning or a cocktail in the afternoon.  Honestly though, I really like how the house looks without the porch enclosed.  The vision of Mr. Tillinghast with his eye for details  and symmetry are more clearly seen in these pictures.

I like the bicycles resting on the side of the house.  I would guess this was before Mr. Willys arrived with his Pope automobiles!

Spring Has Sprung…?

Hard to tell really.  We had some very warm days in early April but last weekend the temperatures were back in the 30’s!  The OWE festival is only two weeks away.  Our neighborhood will be filled with  visitors.  We had only been in the house for a week before last years festival.  Our yard was a neglected overgrown mess of mostly weeds.  We have made some progress but most of our attention has been inside the house.  Being on a high foot traffic corner and on the parade route, we now know that there will be a lot of people walking past and looking at our house.  I haven’t gotten used to people walking by and taking pictures.  It happens more often than you would think. During festival it will happen a lot more.  This weekend we need to do what we can to give the outside of the house some love and attention.


Ideally, we would put the original boxwood hedge back.  This picture must be pre-1910 as that is the time that the front portico was enclosed.  I do like the shrubs at the front of the house.  Now that area is mostly weeds and a few hosta, lily of the valley, ferns and peonies of some previous garden design. All of these are better suited for a shady location and this is the south facing side of the house.  We have removed most of the weeds.  The thistle has proved more of a challenge and I left the plantings that were there because I didn’t have time to really do anything different.

When we visit the garden store this weekend, I will have to decide if I want to have mostly flowers out here or shrubs.  I am slightly leaning towards shrubs as that was what was originally here but this is a great sunny bed and I would  love to have some color here.  Maybe hydrangeas, shrub roses and more peonies would satisfy both options.  Youngest daughter wants a new forsythia and I want to find a lilac that will bloom all summer.

I was also thinking the concrete spouts that come out would be a great place to put window boxes.  They were the drainage system for the porch before it was enclosed and now are merely “decorative.”

At the front door we need to replace our concrete lions.  I am not sure when they first took up residence but they fit the character of the home and ours have seen better days.  Any attempt to reposition them at this point will probably result in their complete collapse.


Maybe we need to find lions on a slightly larger scale!

Under the bay window/Juliet balcony there really isn’t much of anything to salvage.  There are some nice iris but this isn’t really the right place for them either.


Along the west side of the house that I guess is the technically the front (although the front door is on the south side) we removed the overgrown shrubs that completely shadowed the “sun room.”  We are left with stumps and a clean slate.


The lawn is mostly weeds and very little grass.  We thought about applying weed and feed but I worry that we won’t have anything left if we kill the weeds.  This weekend won’t be the time to worry out it but we will need to consider how to return the lawn to something that is grass and not weeds cut short to make the yard look green!


The large yard we call the side yard is in need of transformation in a big way.  Ideally, we would fence it in in order to have it join the small enclosed back yard and become a useable space for us.  Matt did plant all the hosta I brought from the last house in what was a rock garden there.  it was just the rocks and weeds when we arrived.  The hosta are very happy and have filled in nicely.  If we are keeping this feature I would like to add some more shade lovers-coral bells, foxglove, bluebells and Lenten rose.  All things I had in my shade garden before and really like.


This yard has all the sidewalk pieces we got when the road was redone.  We need to get them laid out before someone steals them again.  Even if they aren’t in their final location, we should lay it out and make it look nice before the festival.  People tend to walk through the yard to cut off the corner.  I found it incredibly rude last year but since it looked like it is just an empty lot I can understand.  I am hopeful we can clean it up and have some outdoor furniture out here this year and prevent some of that.


messy underbrush on the corner


Sidewalk pieces still waiting to be laid out


More sidewalk sections


Dead trees that need removed


The sidewalk edge. A little random and in need of a plan. Or at least a fence!

I know we won’t get started on the fence yet but we should be able to make some progress on the functionality and appearance of the yard.  It is a lot more pressure when this is the view across the street:


Time to rip off the band-aid.


The view out the window clearly confirms that spring has arrived!



Well, time to rip off the plastic really.  Some of our windows have fairly decent storm windows while others are missing or in such bad shape that you might as well leave the window open.  In the master, the pull down shades would blow into the room about 5-6 inches whenever it was windy outside.  The living room also had a couple of really bad drafts particularly behind the couch.  In early December I got tired of freezing and got some plastic window insulator kits.  It made a big difference.  In the master it was tricky to figure out how to get the plastic up and I ended up sealing the blinds behind the plastic.  It feels like winter is behind us so I went ahead and removed the plastic.  The tape did take some of the paint off on the master windows but they needed scraping and painting anyway so I wasn’t too surprised.

In the fall, youngest daughter and I were at the big box store (yes, I am sure that is not news.)  There was a woman looking at plastic window film that you can apply to give your windows the look of stained glass.  We commented that we were lucky to have actual stained glass windows at our house.  When we got home I started to think that the stained glass in the living room looked awfully similar to the stick on film at the store.  Surely my historic mansion has ACTUAL stained glass in the living room!  It was one of the things I really liked when we viewed the house.  I had always been intrigued as to why the front window and the bay were the only living room windows with stained glass transoms.  Mr. Tillinghast had a great eye for detail and symmetry.  It seemed odd to me that all the living room windows were not the same.  Perhaps the stained glass transoms were not original and added by another owner.  Turns out that was true.  The stained glass was just plastic from the big box store! Imagine my disappointment…

I kept them up all winter but when I took down the winter insulating I decided it was time to get rid of the “stained glass” as well.

Now all the living room transoms match.  I feel good because we have restored the windows back to their original appearance.  Really, that is my story.  It is disappointing to realize there isn’t stained glass in the living room but I have to admit they look better all matched.  I am sure it won’t be the last surprise or disappointment we deal with.  Just another adventure in owning this historic home.

Fabulous Facelift

The boys are on spring break this week and somehow Matt is the one who ended up going out of town. I decided to tackle the kitchen while he is gone.  I asked oldest son for some help and he pretty much completed the project on his own.  I did some of the prep and all of the clean up but he took on the painting. Here are my before and after pictures!

We took off the rusted and nasty brass hardware and replaced them with an eclectic mix of hand painted pumpkin knobs I found on Amazon.  We removed the gold decorative piece from the center and I am really pleased with how they look.  The cobalt blue is similar to the blue in my sunflower tiles.  I had actually painted the cabinets in our house on Craigwood this same color. Even though the color is darker than the oak, the kitchen feels brighter.

The old cabinets had a latch that kept the doors closed.  They were rusted and some were missing.  We solved the problem of how to keep the doors shut by adding a little magnet latch inside.


I know we will eventually do a complete remodel in the kitchen but for now it looks and feels new and I  LOVE this new look.