Living Room Mood Board

When we started renovating our house over two years ago we focused on the parts of the house that needed immediate demo -- the kitchen, dining room, and downstairs bedroom/office. To make room for that, we piled all the house's furniture into the living room. There it has sat -- until last weekend! We cleared it all out and and now I'm getting excited to decorate. Here are some basics I'm starting with.

 

1.West Elm Diamond Stripe Wool Dhurrie 2.Benjamin Moore's Gentlemen's Gray 3.Benjamin Moore's Hale Navy 4.Farrow & Ball's Inchyra Blue 5.Florence Linen, Light Gray 6.Example of Original Cabinet Hardware 7.Schoolhouse Electric Brass Planter

To balance the room's abundance of natural light and large white built ins, we are thinking of painting the walls a deep moody color and keeping gray and white neutrals throughout the furnishing. We have so many thriving plants in our current apartment and can't wait to move them into this room & buy even more. It's the perfect setting. We saved the old wood base couch that was in this room, and after stripping the musty old upholstery we'll be making our own new cushions. I love the softness of a light linen tweed.

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I am obsessed with this wall of built ins, and luckily my dad saved the original hardware. The cabinet latches have a beautiful intricate pattern on them that is so unique and beautiful. Once we sand it all down and give it a fresh coat of paint they're going to look like new. The room's trim is currently a buttery white, so we'll update it with something much more stark and bright.

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We pulled up four or five layers of floor coverings to see the original floors and are hoping to refinish them ourselves in the next month or so. Underneath the linoleum coverings were even more layers of newspaper and wallpaper -- the wallpaper has stained the floor a light blue color. Depending on the condition we'll stain them a rich auburn color, or paint them white if they're in bad shape.

Heating is going in soon as well as sky lights & insulation upstairs. I'm working on a floor plan for our second floor and I can't wait to show you!

Reflecting

The dawn of a new year inevitably makes you reflect on what you've done with your most recent trip around the sun. It's the most perfect measure of time, a true beginning and end. I try not to give much weight to resolutions and promises and "best of" moments as we count down the clock, but wow, this one really was a doozy. It's hard not to take a deep breath this time and think, "holy shit, we made it." At the start of this year I was motivated, hopeful, working a lot, planning a lot, optimistic we would have a house that could be lived in by August. Haha, oh my god. Well, these past twelve months have given me an extreme dose of patience testing, learning to say no, learning to say, "it's ok," learning to yell. I haven't been very good at these things before.

 

We willed the early winter to go by quickly, to let the ground thaw and temperatures to hover above freezing at night. We waited anxiously to hear good news on our home equity loan application. It was necessary for us to afford working on the house at the rate we wanted. In March I toasted myself with cheap champagne and danced around our apartment kitchen when I received the official email.

In late April, the day before his birthday, my husband was laid off from a great job, one we were staying in the city for. Rug out from under our feet. We cycled wildly through thoughts -- do we move now? Do we stay? If we stay is it for another year...two? We decided to stick to our plan of staying in Boston for one more year with Brooklin still on the horizon for June 2017. And we got to work.

From April to November we did not spend one weekend at our apartment. We went up and down Route 1 to I-95 to I-295 to I-95 to Route 3 to Route 15 to Route 175 late at night and before the sun rose. We sacrificed attending birthday parties and baby showers and spending lazy afternoons at the beach or weekends camping for plaster demolition, wallpaper stripping, lugging hundred year old wood from one spot to the other, sanding, painting, nailing, planning.

We had fun outside of the house too -- we rewarded long days of work with jumping off rope swings into ponds under pink sunset skies. We spent the Fourth of July unplugged on Swans Island, jumping into the frosty ocean from the rocks and swimming to shore, climbing out of the waves with seaweed in my hair. I traveled to northern California for work, went through the redwoods in a big van with an Algerian reggae band. I listened to them sing Bob Marley as we drove past miles and miles of twisting vineyards. We went to Philly and walked through the sweltering center of town with our old roommate, looking at the Liberty Bell through a window reflection because the line was too long. Spent a gray New York City day with a dear friend in a spa drinking wine and talking about everything imaginable - most importantly, remembering her dad and my mom. Traveled from Portland to see Leon Bridges to Provincetown to see Trixie Mattel in the same weekend with my sister. Met my oldest and best friend's first baby when he was four weeks old, already smiling. Walked through trails and marveled over moss and ocean all over the Blue Hill peninsula and Deer Isle. Sat in the kitchen of our house, huddled around a space heater, drinking bloody marys with newfound friends.

These cinematic memories are what got me through the rest of the year. I also got let go from a job, something I was trying part time and thought might be the solution to my career ennui (nope!). I didn't get another job, writing for a hugely reputable design blog, after making it through the first two rounds. I struggled with the stress of renovating a home that represents six generations of my family's history. I beat myself up for not knowing what to do with my life. I procrastinated. I drank a lot of wine, watched a lot of reality TV. I got angry with how long everything takes. I stood in our kitchen, stripped to the studs with no ceiling, and cried while saying, "I hate being in here." I watched my husband build an amazing new career for himself and felt lazy as I admired how intensely hard he works. I felt impotent seeing many close friends go through heart wrenching personal tragedies. I sat in a cubicle with no windows three days a week, battling apathy and boredom at my steady non-profit job. I sobbed with my co-workers on November 9th. I got red with anger and yelled (something I've done maybe three times, ever) while trying to communicate with my husband while planking a ceiling. I felt useless, unmoored, sad. I felt indecisive and frustrated.

It has been hard. It has been tiring. But I feel immense pride for what I have accomplished personally, and what I've accomplished alongside my husband. I feel thankful for the blank slate that will appear before me in a day and a half. I feel thankful for the strife that was peppered in between success this year.

2017 will be a big one. We will be leaving a city we have called home for the past eleven and a half years. We will be moving to a home that we have saved with our own two hands. We'll travel, we'll turn thirty, we'll surely hit huge road bumps. I'll be pushing myself -- to work even harder, to pay attention, to be an activist, to be a good friend, to be a good homeowner and neighbor, to say "no" even more, and to yell at least one or two more times. I'm ready.

It's Really Bad Before It's Good

Mid summer I stood in the kitchen of our house and said, "I hate being in here." There was no ceiling in the kitchen and dining room, you could see outside around the entire perimeter up to two feet tall due to rot repair, and the gaping hole for the patio door was framed out but it was not yet installed so every time we came in and out we had to screw and unscrew a huge piece of plywood. It looked like a complete mess that would never ever be finished. I felt way over my head, totally unprepared, exhausted, and like we were moving at a snail's pace. Well, if you're in the middle of your own renovation -- guys, it gets exciting and promising I swear!

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Fast forward to the end of October and this shell of a home now has walls, floors, and the most exciting thing -- kitchen cabinets!

Once we finished the electrical we were able to put up dry wall which then lead us to figure out the flooring. We originally thought we'd be able to recycle the original flooring from upstairs, but when we pulled it out from under my Dad's garage it had not held up well over the years. Knowing we wanted planks as wide as possible we headed to Lumber Liquidators in Bangor. They had a bundle of 10" boards for a super steal at $80, but it would only cover half our square footage. The salesman and my Dad convinced a skeptical me that mixing it with 8" would not only look great, but would actually be more authentic to the time period of the house (it was rare to have equal width boards in a pre-1900s home). So we headed back to Brooklin with enough pine for our kitchen and dining room for less than $400. Five hours of hard work later, we had flooring.

I can't explain what a difference this made to the space. When we started working on the house both these spaces were covered with a gross linoleum. Once the floor was all laid I just said, "It looks like this was always meant to be here!" Once it gets warm out again we will paint the floor a greenish gray color we discovered was originally a trim color (see image below, we found this behind the mantle in the kitchen). People seem to hate this idea and have tried to persuade us to change out minds but too bad, guys, it's happening. The original wood floors in the bedroom, living room, and upstairs were all painted -- it's highly unlikely any of the floors were ever just stained. And, we think it's going to look great painted. So deal with it!

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Next we began to re-install the ceiling. A bright side to having reinforce the second story was the ability to expose the original beams that were previously covered. We poached lots and lots of shiplap from my Dad's house -- this was bought by my grandfather over 50 years ago and can be found in so many rooms on the floors and walls of his house. We began running this between the beams which is going to look great, but is a huge pain in the ass because this house is as wonky as you'd expect a 160 year old house to be. We'll eventually paint the shiplap white, and keep the original beams their dirty, patina-ed self. Below you can see the shiplap stored under my Dad's garage, and it partially installed in the house as I prime the walls at 6:00pm (even thought it looks like midnight!)

Now, oh my god, the cabinets. We have been working with Block Brother Cabinets in Searsport since last January. We wanted the new cabinets to look as close to the originals as possible, while accommodating for a slightly new set up -- and they hit it out of the park. Simple, clean, traditional, functional. We picked Restoration Hardware latches to match what was in the house originally, and pulls we thought were authentic without being trendy (in the oil rubbed bronze finish).

Seriously, look at this craftsmanship.

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We also finally touched up the front door. The door color and window trim have been a bright forest green as long as I can remember which I believe was probably a boat paint. While I love this color and tradition, we decided to switch it up a little bit and go black. This is another controversial paint color so we keep joking that we'll rename it "Goth House" to really rile up the family and neighborhood.

We don't have much time to go before it gets to chilly too work on the house but I can't wait to put in some countertop and install our sink. It's going to really start to feel like home!

Catching Up

Today the weather is a beautiful crisp 60 degrees in Boston, the leaves are starting to change, and it's been a very intense four months since the last time I have written. At that point, the kitchen had been demoed and we were thinking about painting the bathroom. Well, a lot has happened since then... The bathroom was successfully painted a beautiful deep greeny blue - Benjamin Moore's Newburg Green. Small projects like this always give me a little boost, especially when there is lots of project delaying bad news around the corner...

 

It started out great! Our friends joined us up north for a weekend of re-framing in June. We relocated the kitchen window to be centered above our sink with the new kitchen layout, and re-framed the single door opening to one that would fit our freshly ordered sliding patio door.

Upon some of the demo that goes along with that work we discovered more rot in the sill than we were expecting. We knew one side needed repair, but soon discovered that at least 40% of the house's sill would need to be replaced. While this isn't devastating in terms of complexity, it was a little hit to our timeline.

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But, the bigger wrench was realizing how the second floor was pretty under-enforced for today's standards. Rather than joists every 16 inches, they spanned 5 feet in some places. Because we plan on adding a small bathroom, master bedroom, and lounge/office space here it was determined that this all needed to be re-done. While necessary, it was a huge hurtle for us. We are only able to spend weekends at our house in Maine and this kind of work is tedious, arduous, and expensive. We have spent at least six weekends this summer focusing on this issue and working tirelessly to get it wrapped up in a way we can save some of the original ceilings, and expose the beams in the kitchen and dining room area.

Doing work on this part of the house also lead to a big design revelation in the kitchen. I had always been very attached to the mantle on the largest wall in the kitchen, and wanted to keep this architectural feature, as I am trying to save as much original character as I am able. However, in order to reinforce the new floor joists some of this wall needed to be removed. While we started to take down the plaster I realized how much empty space there was behind this wall. We had planned on putting a small, thin pantry in this space, but seeing it all opened up made me realize the huge possibilities we had if the whole wall was out. So, after some deep breaths and letting go of something I'd held on to as a design decision for two years, we carefully removed the mantle.

And what was behind it? Eighteen more square feet of space. This huge hole in the middle of the house accommodated the large original chimney that fed three fireplaces -- one in the kitchen, one in the bedroom, and one in the living room. When the fireplaces in the bedroom and kitchen were covered up, and the kitchen was converted to a wood stove only, the original chimney was removed and a smaller one was put in place. But the original footprint remained empty. Now, we'll keep the newer chimney exposed, with it's funky shape, and be able to countersink the refrigerator on one side and add a custom pantry to the other.

Making these kind of choices is so hard for me. I desperately want the house to feel as original as possible, but I also know the needs we have for a modern home are so completely far away from the needs of my ancestors who built the house in 1850. We're making some sacrifices -- small apartment size appliances and no dishwasher -- to keep it as close we can to the original floor plan. And we're keeping crooked doors, roughed up trim, original built in cabinets, original floors, so I have to keep reminding myself we're doing the best we can, and we are saving this house. That's what is most important.

Now that these huge structural things have been done, I think we're FINALLY getting to the fun part. Insulation and dry wall are going up in the kitchen after being gutted since April and ceiling & flooring choices have been made -- we're using 50 year old ship lap from my dad's house for the ceiling and reusing the original floors from the second story in the kitchen and dining room. These creative solutions make me feel really happy and accomplished, and like there is a light that we're really truly getting closer too.

 

It's only September and we have so much we can get to before it gets too chilly to be working in the unheated home. And there are some special surprises coming soon too that I cannot wait to share with you all. I promise it won't be so long before you hear from me again. :) Happy Autumn, everyone!