We started with a long list.

In preparation for festival, I walked through the house and made a multipage list of projects I wanted to accomplish before the tour. I knew full well the list would not get completed but I figured if we set goals high enough many things would get finished.

The list looked something like this:

  • Replace outside 1970 something storm doors
  • seal front porch, kitchen and sunroom floors
  • Find or make curtains for pretty much every room on tour
  • replace living room furniture (we have been looking since we got here but haven’t found anything we agree on)
  • new dining room set
  • finish the back stairs
  • paint the bathroom, third floor hallway, second floor woodwork, dressing room, second floor closet, linen closet, study, sunroom, kitchen, butlers pantry. Pretty much everything that hadn’t already been painted.
  • repair ceiling in the pub
  • clean out the pub kitchen
  • repair wallpaper in the bunny room and living room
  • replace and put up fence in the back yard
  • wash all 144 windows
  • decide how best to arrange each room to show off the unique details and architecture without our personal things distracting from the house’s features
  • convince the kids this would not be a horrible experience
  • clean up the brass throughout the house
  • polish all the woodwork, there is a lot of woodwork
  • remove the plexiglass from the stained glass window so it is visible from outside
  • replace light fixtures that are not in character with the homes age, particularly bedrooms, hallways and the kitchen fixtures
  • get the flower beds and landscaping cleaned up
  • plant all my pots early enough that they have time to fill in before festival

We managed to finish a lot of the items but still have a ways to go. It was almost like getting a house ready to show when it is for sale. I think we will have to stay here a long time. I cant imagine getting ALL the rooms ready when it is time for someone else to live here. What did get finished looks great and I smile as I walk into a lot of the spaces that finally are done. I was surprised how a change in paint color, new curtains or pictures on a wall could change a space and make it feel like home in a way it hadn’t before.

I really love the dark blue. There is so much white in the room that I thought we could go with a dark color and not have it feel dark. I had the gerbera daisy prints in the entry way at our old house. They are a set of sixteen. I have the others on the wall above the tub. I love the mix of old and new in the bathroom. Painting it one of my favorite colors and adding the prints that I like so much really made this bathroom feel like it is ours. Its been hard to find that balance of making this house feel like home while honoring the integrity and history of what was here before. It took me some time but it really is feeling more like home now.

Having the house on tour was the nudge we needed to really move forward on some changes we had been reluctant to do or things we had just chosen to ignore. Overall it was a great experience but not something I will be ready to do again soon. Maybe it would be easier if we were twenty years younger!

Up To Speed

When I started this blog there was a lot going on in a short amount of time.  After the first year or year and a half we settled into life in our mansion and continued working on small projects.  We learned to just live with a lot of the things like green paint and ugly light fixtures, bathrooms without working faucets or dripping faucets, occasional water leaks inside the roof when the rain is heavy and the wind is blowing a certain way, frozen washing machine pipes and cold rooms.  As I’m thinking about it the list is pretty long!  The quirky things have become just part of the adventure.

Matt has been prodding me for some time to get back to my blog.  For several reasons the time seemed right now. 2017 and 2018 saw a few projects get completed. In no particular order, some things we did:

  • Added air conditioning to the first floor
  • installed mini split system to provide heat and ac to the kitchen and laundry room
  • repaired three of the flat roofs
  • replaced some bathroom fixtures
  • improved the landscaping
  • redid the room that was the chapel and made it into Matt’s pub
  • painted the garage
  • stained the back stairs

I’ll try to add some before and after photos soon.

We also hosted many events and had a lot of overnight guests. We have had Christmas parties, porch parties, parade brunches, an engagement party, hosted a mini tour for about 100 people after they had gone to Woodlawn cemetery for a tour of famous Toledoans gravesites, had several team dinners for our kids, hosted 70 kids for dinner before a date dance, birthday parties, were the first stop for OWE porch crawl last summer just to name a few.

In January we were approached about opening our home for the OWE festival the first weekend in June. After some back and forth negotiating between the two of us we agreed. We have made a wish list of things we would like to complete before then and Matt has already started on it. So if all goes as planned, we will have lots of projects to share with you soon.

Way before picture!

The Sky is Falling

We are in the process of switching the kids rooms around.  Oldest daughter is away at camp so we want to finish getting her things moved to her new room and put away before she returns tomorrow.  Matt finished painting her room and I moved everything out of her old room.  Matt is finishing the hall closet which she will use in place of the very large closet she had in her current bedroom.  As soon as the painting is finished I can try to put all her things away.

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Matt has made progress on the closets.  The bedroom one is finished:


Closet before

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Closet after










The problem now is getting all the stuff from her old closet:


Into the new closet!

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The old closet is 6 feet long with built in cupboards above the clothes rod and built in drawers, cupboards and shoe holders on the end that are 18 inches deep.  We know that won’t all fit in the room she is moving to where there is one shelf and a hanging rod which is only two feet long.

The solution is letting her use the hall closet next to her bedroom to keep a lot of her stuff in.  I lined the drawers, shelves and the back walls of the cupboards.  I scraped off most of the green paint.  Matt has painted the green walls and I hope he can finish the cabinets and drawers today.  It is a big improvement and will be a great use of this space.

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We painted the walls the same color as the hallway outside.

The next step in getting all this rearranging done is to get oldest daughters old room painted so oldest son can move his things in. This room had some damage done to the ceiling from one of the flat roofs on the third floor.  Looking at it, we knew there had been a problem but the sellers assured us the leaking had been taken care of.  Turns out that that wasn’t true.  Oldest daughter had all her friends here for a sleepover shortly after we moved in.  We had a big storm and there was rain water pouring out of her bedroom ceiling fixture!  When the ceiling dried out, part of it actually fell off.  We had the drywall guy come and repair it.

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You can see the part of the ceiling where the drywall was fixed and the crown molding that was damaged and needs to be painted.


There were still some spots on the ceiling that were damaged and some loose paint up there.  Oldest son decided he could handle scraping off the loose paint and prepping it for Matt to paint.

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He got way more than he bargained for when he started to scrape the loose paint, and an entire section of the ceiling came down!  I received a text message that read “the sky is falling.”  I knew that could not be good!

Apparently the ceilings in our house are all canvas with plaster skim coat over them.  The whole section of the plaster covered canvas fell.  The interesting part, is it tore away from the plaster decorative border that is on the ceiling in this room.  It is the only room in the house with this border so we were happy not to lose it!

Matt thinks we can (carefully) remove the remainder of the canvas and leave the border intact.  He can skim the ceiling and paint and we will be good to go.  This will delay the project of course.  We moved all the things out of the ‘cowboy” room into the hall except the two twin bed frames.  Once oldest son moves his things into oldest daughters old room, the guest room things can move into his old room and become the new guest room- with a bathroom!  It will be a much nicer configuration for guests.

In the meantime, our upstairs hallway looks like this:

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It feels like we just moved in all over again!


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.


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.