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.

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!

Waiting & Wallpaper

The past month has been a super stressful waiting game - we're in the process of applying for a home equity line of credit to fund a big portion of the renovations we'd like to do this summer. Having never applied for a loan in my life, I underestimated how much time, effort, and stress is involved!

I thought -- "Hey! The house has no mortgage! We can use the equity! We have no debt! Easy peasy!" Wrong!

First, it took several phone calls to even find a credit union that would give a home equity loan on a "second property." Even though we do not own any other property, since this one is not our primary residence it's considered a "second home." Ok... got around that. And then the paperwork... We got pre-approved through the online process, but then still had to submit 1,000,000 pieces of paper to confirm all that information, including my truly bizarre work history over the past year (I had four W-2s to attach and explain). Ok... done!

Then  -- the appraisal process. Big lessons learned on this one. Do not start any renovations BEFORE you apply for a loan. Maybe this is a big "duh" for most of you, but we've never done anything like this and are just trying to figure it out as we go along. The bank warned us about safety concerns like "missing handrails" would need to be corrected before we could close. I literally laughed when I read the email. I thought, "So uhhh... if you can see the basement from the second floor, will that be a problem?"

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We eventually worked with the appraiser to lock up the second floor and pretend it and all its safety hazards don't exist. This allowed him to evaluate the property as a one story one bedroom with "expandable space." Because we essentially stripped out a bunch of equity from the house when we tore up floors and took down ceilings, he was pretty concerned we would not be able to get an adequate amount of equity from the property to get the loan amount we requested, but after a long two weeks we got word the underwriting of the loan could happen at a slightly modified amount. SUCCESS!

Just a few more pieces of paper to sign and we are GOOD TO GO. Which leads me back to the fun part -- planning. Getting this line of credit allows us to bust out a ton of projects on the first floor this summer without spending every cent of cash we have in the bank. It's a huge relief and very exciting.

The tiny bathroom is on the first floor in a space I assume was originally a closet as it's located across from the front door right in the entryway. The house had an outhouse for at least 80-85 years after it was built. It was still there  in the 1940's when my grandmother moved up to the house from Boston (where she grew up and met my grandfather) to raise their daughter, and eventually three more kids.

This little space doesn't need much work except for a face lift -- new coat of paint on the built in medicine cabinet, a nice shower curtain, and a pop of color via some wallpaper. Since there is really only one tiny sliver of a wall that we can work with, it's a great opportunity to go really bold. We'd like to add more wallpaper throughout the house to honor it's decorating roots, but we'll likely go more neutral in the larger spaces.

Design Sponge has an amazing resource list that I spent hours pouring through last night, and below are some of my favorites.

This pattern is from the "Faux Finishes" section from Secondhand Rose, a site that sells actual vintage, not reproduction, wallpaper. It's a nod to what we found in the kitchen, and the chartreuse color is absolutely amazing.

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It's hard to find a nautical pattern that isn't cheesy or too on the nose, which is why I'm slightly obsessed this funky pattern titled, "That Highly Intelligent Clam." I found it available in several colors, including what's shown below but also red and white, from both Walnut Wallpaper and Grow House Grow. It has a perfect nod to the ocean, but also has a beautiful hand drawn quality to it that I love.

Another one from Walnut Wallpaper that caught my eye was this pattern "Crescent." It has a deep rich color but also slightly references waves and the ocean without being too overt.

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I had a blast going through all these sites to see how many totally different options there are for wallpapers now -- it's not just florals and stripes! I have started a Pinterest Board just for ones I find eye catching and am planning on ordering at least three of four samples to take a look at in the space this summer. Stay tuned!