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Archive for July, 2008

These are the two photos that prompted me to start saving inspirational pictures in a folder on the desktop.  These cabinets are almost exactly what we’re looking for, I love the subway tile backsplash (although we want our to be something like the light sage green from Ann Sacks), and we definitely want that much open space above the sink.  Great, warm colors in the second photo, and the picture rail is what inspired us to use one to tie the dining room and kitchen together as one big room (which we’ll call The Food-Making and Eating Place, naturally).  Plus, the person who posted the second picture built that table himself.  Talk about inspiration – whoah.

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Endless Summer

That small paint card is called Endless Summer – it’s a very tranquil blue, and Missy the Color Queen says it’s perfect because it doesn’t have any gray or green in it.   We’re planning to paint the dining room Endless Summer, and since we want it to feel integrated with the kitchen, we’re carrying the color through the kitchen’s soffets* and back wall.  The flowery trim would have come down already, but I don’t think the red goes all the way up to the ceiling and we don’t have a can of it downstairs.**

I priced 2″ trim at Menard’s yesterday, and the picture rail I want to put up is going to be a pretty small investment ($0.25/ft for 90′ of paint-grade trim).  It’ll be the height of the soffet-ceiling intersection in the kitchen, but also run all the way around the dining room at that height.  Having the floor, paint, and picture rail all be the same will go a long, long way toward tying the two rooms together.

We’re aiming for the  craftsman ideal – large, open rooms of usable family space.  With that in mind, I really, really wish we had a breakfast nook.  The natural place for it would be under the window at the far end of the kitchen, but we want to open that wall up with a french doors and build a small deck off the kitchen.  I realize a deck isn’t a traditional craftsman feature,  but the extra windows will make the kitchen explode with light and we love to grill.  Consider it a nod to contemporary life.

Here’s a picture from our first walk-through of the house (April 16th, according to the filename).  Missy’s dubious of the decor, but the rooms clearly have potential.

*which will eventually come out to make room for extra-tall cabinets.  I think they were only added so there wasn’t an open space between the tops of the cabinets and the ceiling, so they aren’t structural.

**The previous owners very helpfully left extra cans of all the interior and exterior paint – y’know, just in case we wanted to paint more trim magenta.   I shouldn’t kid – it was really nice to have extra hallway paint after we took down the upstairs border.  And we can use the actual column paint on the porch to cover up the concentric rings of color at the tops and bottoms.

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TG Woodworks

Travis at TG Woodworks (or “comprising TG Woodworks”, since it’s just him as far as I know) is building an entry table for us, and since he probably isn’t reading this, I’m going to gush just a little bit.  We showed him some pictures of what we were looking for (straight out of the Stickley catalog, basically) and he was right on board.  I think he really enjoys building for someone that knows a little about what they’re after and why – we chatted about through-tenons, fuming, the magic ratio, all kinds of furniture-nerd stuff.  The difference is that he has all the skill, experience, and tools to actually do something with the knowledge.

And the something he’s doing for us is stunning – quartersawn white oak, traditional joinery, and zero metal.  Seriously – not a single screw, nail, bolt, nut or washer.  He doesn’t even like to use dowels if he can avoid it.  The corbels (the curved supports under the edges of the top) are put on with 9″ long blind tenons.  Travis said Stickley used to attach his corbels with dowels, but he wants to do just a hair better.

If you click the picture of the table when it’s dry-fit together, you can see one of the long tenons on the front left corbel.  It’s not pushed in all the way because the tolerances are so tight he was worried it wouldn’t come back out.  There’s no reason it shouldn’t last multiple centuries, so we’ll pass it down to Josie, who’ll pass it down to her children, who we hope will deliver it through many more generations.

Travis was kind enough to send some in-progress pictures from his workshop, and Missy and I took a few of our own when we drove there to talk about stain (and to ogle it, but officially to talk about stain).

Here’s the pile of lumber that will magically (or possibly not, I haven’t really seen Travis work in person) become our table.  He said he’s been holding the lumber for a few years, just waiting for the right project to come along.  I’m glad we’re worthy, because it’s perfect.  Just stellar ray-flakes in the grain – the kind of thing you can only get from a tree that grew slowly over 150 years.  The tree grew on a farm near Poy Sippi, Wisconsin (about 30 miles from here – when we say we want to use local materials and craftsmanship, we really mean it) and blew over in June 2001.

You can really see the rays when the top is glued up and planed.  Travis planed it by hand because he was worried the machine planer would strip off the rays.

Here’s the table with the pieces all cut, mortises drilled, and tenons shaped.  Travis said he still has 4-5 days of sanding (!!!), then he’ll put it together with glue, stain, and finish it.  It was rock-solid when he dry-fit it together for us, so once the glue sets and the wood picks up some moisture from our house, it’ll feel like the table was carved from a single trunk.

If I told you what we paid for it, you’d (pardon my French) dirty your drawers.  Do yourself a favor –  if there’s a piece of furniture you were thinking about buying from Pottery Barn, World Market, or Crate + Barrel, give him a chance to give you an estimate first.

He’s going to deliver it late this week or early next, so keep an eye out for an update.  I need to give the refinished floor another coat of stain and a couple coats of poly-urethane before it gets here.  Can’t have such a beautiful table sitting on a half-finished floor!

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A house’s entryway (or foyer – even vestibule – depending on your level of pretension) should give guests a sense of your home.  It should be welcoming and comfortable and accommodating and all that, but it should also reflect the homeowners’ design philosophy somewhere in its long list of duties.

We want our farmhouse to reflect the ideas of simplicity, honesty and craftsmanship (as opposed to what the house represents now – frilliness, affectation, and gingerbread cutouts).  Since we’re lucky enough to have an actual entryway and not just a door that opens into a room, our job is to make sure that 7’x7′ space introduces our house properly.

Or at least properly introduces our future, de-victorianized house.

Fortunately, we started with a good shell.  The knick-knack shelves, golden umbrella bucket, and fancy wrought-iron left with the sellers, leaving us with a beadboarded cube. 

The flooring was green and white vinyl tile, which held on tight and left plenty of evidence.  Fortunately, a couple weekends with a sharp chisel and adhesive remover made quick work of it.  Sanding took care of the rest (and yes, I should have been using a floor sander.  And probably a mask.  In my defense, it’s a tiny little entryway).  I stained with Minwax Provincial, which looked like a medium golden-brown on the can, but showed much darker on the floor.  Missy likes the color, though, so it’s all good in the Division Street hood.

Our entry table (which deserves a post of its own) should be here in the next week, so I’ll need to put on another coat of Provincial and a couple coats of poly to seal it.

Then it’s on to the doors.  The screen door is getting a new screen and new paint, but most importantly, surgery to excise the victorian spindles.  We’ve always wanted a naturally-finished front door, so I’m also going to unholster my heat gun and strip the exterior side of that.  The inside is beautiful and it’s a solid-slab door, so I’m pretty confident there’s something attractive under the paint.  Assuming a 26×28 piece of glass isn’t outrageously expensive, I’m also going to try my hand at replacing that.  The glass in there now is a starburst/firework pattern that offends my delicate sensibilities.

What does a classic farmhouse welcome mat look like?

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I’ve been chronicling new-house projects on Josie’s blog for the past few weeks*, but after reading great renovation sites like Prairie Box and Bangor Bungalow, I decided to separate the baby from the house and start a renovation blog.  (Missy’s note: Under no circumstances will the baby be separated from the house.)

We live in a 108 year-old traditional farmhouse that the previous owners Victorianed the pants off of.  Or, in the spirit of Victorian design, the previous owners Victorianed three different colors of pants onto the house, added lace curtains to the pants, and covered them in boldly-striped wallpaper.

Our goal is to de-Victorianize this house and return it to its roots.  We plan to use salvaged materials (or failing that, local materials) wherever and whenever possible, and to do the vast, vast majority of the labor ourselves.  It’s a twofold goal – we’re trying to do these projects with a skeletal (sometimes nonexistent) budget, and we want to reflect Stickley’s Craftsman ideals of local materials and workmanship done by hand.

Our guiding aesthetic principles as we de-Victorian are simplicity, honesty, quality worksmanship, and connection to the land.  It’s a farmhouse after all (a farmhouse in the city still has a farmhouse’s soul), and those are solid, traditional farm values.

As crazy as it sounds, in some ways I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t start from the painfully low places that other folks do.  The inspector called our place one of the best 100+ year-old houses he’s seen, structurally speaking, so as much as we hate some of the aesthetic decisions of the previous owners, we applaud them for being excellent stewards.  That doesn’t mean we don’t hate the faux-wood-grain paint on the upstairs woodwork or slightly fear the stove light cover made from an old coffee can, but you’re not going to see pictures of us ripping out subfloors or adding a third story.

I shouldn’t promise that.  Let’s just see where this goes.

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*From oldest to most recent, those posts are here, here, more over here, some more here, a little more here, and here.  Oh, and here.  Not quite done – here too.

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