Archive for February 2009

forever house

I read a lot of random house blogs. Most of them are written by people about my age, who have also bought a house that needs some work. Most of them are first time home buyers. Something that I've been noticing lately is that it appears the people who own these houses and write these blogs are thinking that the house will be their forever house. While I am all about finding ways to adapt your house to fit with current needs instead of moving every time something changes in your life, for some reason I struggle with the idea of buying your forever house as your first house. Maybe it's just because that was not at all our approach when buying our house. Maybe it's because we couldn't afford to live in the good neighborhoods/school districts now. Maybe it's the architect in me that is always looking for new projects. Maybe it's because I don't see us living in STL forever.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before in the blog, but when we bought our house, we were also looking for an investment. We were sick of renting and wanted a yard for our dogs. We wanted a house that we were comfortable in, that we could live in for awhile, and that we loved. We also wanted a house that needed work and we wanted to be able to do that work. We looked at probably 40+ houses (our poor realtor!) and we both just saw something in this house, first in the pictures online, and then even more so when we went to see it (twice). We had fallen for a completely different house earlier in the house search process, lost it, and were getting very discouraged. But this house... this big pink house... it had a great floor plan, it had tall ceilings, it had a nice yard, it had crazy wallpaper, it had so much potential. And it needed us. It's hard to explain, but it really did just feel right.

So when Mike and I have been renovating, we have to keep everything in perspective. If this was going to be our forever house, I'd probably try to figure out a way to add an extra full bathroom, or at least make the one bathroom bigger. I think I'd try to fix up the garage. I'd add a privacy fence so I wouldn't have to see the neighbors messy backyard everyday. But for now, we focus on things that the house needs. We live in the house and adapt our list of projects as time goes on. Even though I tend to make decisions based on what I think works best with the house, everything is still turning out to be very "us". I feel that the house is so much more us than our apartment ever was. I love the way the house is starting to come together and I'm so excited to see how it turns out. Mike teases me because I normally am a big planner - I like to know what I'm doing before I start something, I like to know how much time it will take and how much it will cost. But with this house, that's not how it's been going. I made a huge to-do list when we first bought the house, and while we kind of follow it (mostly I just like being able to cross off completed projects!), we've learned to relax and just work on whatever project we have the time for, can afford, and will benefit the house (and us) the most.

Last week I saw some pictures of one of my good friend's new (very old) house. It was in not so great of shape when they bought it. I'm pretty sure that it is their forever house. They have done some fabulous renovations already. Real renovations that put our diy projects to shame. It's hard to not be jealous, I feel like it would be much easier to justify spending the time and money knowing you'd be living with it for a long time. I also have another good friend who is thinking of selling their first house after only a year. They are thinking of moving to a different city. They haven't changed much in their house since buying it, it was in good shape to begin with. It's interesting to me to just think about how differently each friend (and us) view their first house. The forever house, the I'd rather pay a mortgage than pay rent house, the investment/great for now house...

So I was wondering, those of you who read my blog (all 4 of you) - what do you think? If you own a home, what was your approach when buying your first house? Did/do you see yourself living in it forever?


Happy Birthday Mike!

We celebrated all weekend with our friends - Kara, Jessica, and Patrick - they came to St. Louis for Mardi Gras.
I made Mike a mardi gras birthday cake - those are supposed to be mardi gras beads, made out of M&Ms.
It was even mardi gras colors on the inside.
Mike and me at the parade. Mike is wearing Jessica's hat cause it was cold.
Kara, me, and Jessica

We had the best weekend, I'm so glad that our friends could be here for Mike's bday too :-)


Mike's early birthday present

We were planning on getting all of the work done on our bedroom on Saturday so we could start moving furniture Saturday night. We started off good - Saturday morning we got up early to take the car in for emissions/safety testing. After dropping the car off, we stopped by Starbucks for coffee (yum! and very necessary, I'm not a morning person). Then we went home to meet a general contractor (more on that later) and spoke with him for almost 2 hours. After all that, it was basically lunch time. We didn't start painting until after lunch. We primed the baseboards and painted the walls. Mike set the shoe molding up in the basement and put a coat of paint on it. Painting took us most of the day. Then we had to pick up the car and go to the grocery store... and it was Valentine's Day... so we gave up on our plan of finishing the bedroom and just enjoyed a nice dinner at home while watching a horribly cheesy 80s movie. My kind of Valentine's Day :-)

Sunday morning we were on a mission. We really wanted/needed to sleep upstairs that night. We got up early again and started working right away. We cut the first piece of shoe molding (is it molding or moulding?) and started to nail it into place. A few mins later, I had finally gotten one nail in... Mike had bent 4 nails, but had gotten none into the shoe molding. Hmmm... the biggest problem was that we were really afraid of scratching our beautiful floors. Well, that and we've been looking for an excuse. Any excuse. Cause once you use one of these, you'll look for any possible reason to own one. So Mike looked at me, said "I think it's time... and it is my birthday next weekend..." and with that, we were out the door, in the car on the way to Lowes.

Welcome to our home nail gun! It's it pretty?? It came with a finish nailer, a brad nailer, and a stapler. And a "portable 38 pound" 6-gallon air compressor that the cat is very very afraid of. We need to install shoe molding throughout the entire house, plus we have some other projects that this will be a big help with. See?? I told you, any excuse... so thank you state tax refund. And thanks to Mike's dad for introducing us to the joys of a pneumatic nailer. Oh, and happy early birthday Mike.

With the help of our (woops, I mean Mike's...) new nail gun, we were able to cut all the shoe molding for our bedroom, attach it, caulk, and patch the nail holes in just a few hours.

Hmm, in the pictures the wall color looks kind of splotchy and yellow in places, I promise that it's not. I'm really glad we decided to repaint the walls. It's almost the exact shade as the curtains. And the cool color in the walls looks really nice with the warm wood floors. Love it. We also put the curtains up a little differently - just using the pole pocket at the top instead of putting them on rings like they were before. This made them a little shorter, which is nice. We might keep them this way for awhile and see how we like them. I was getting frustrated with the rings because they kept getting stuck and then I would never open the curtains.

I'm also glad we decided to go ahead and paint the baseboards white. We put the final coat on after we patched. We're keeping the rest of the woodwork as is, the baseboards were just in horrible shape. Check out my shoe molding around the closet doors. I should post a more detailed picture. It's almost like we know what we're doing.

We have some friends coming to visit this weekend (yay!!) so I don't know how much we'll get done with week. We've very motivated right now though to keep working on the upstairs.*

*Translation - I really just want to install more shoe molding... nail guns are fun.

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the other valentine

It's seemed only appropriate that instead of going out to some big fancy dinner, or spending money on chocolates and flowers, we spend valentines weekend with our other love - our house.
Which is why we spent Friday night painting this bathroom. Goodbye overwhelming yellow paint, hello new green paint.We also painted the vanity white, get some new handles, and painted the baseboards. Eventually we'll get a new vanity, lights, floor, and mirror, but this was an easy update for now. What about the door you ask?? Well, we're working on it...It's getting there. This is after 3 coats of the paint remover. It's a messy job, but it seems to be working. I think we'll take one more pass at it, and then try sanding. Hopefully we can get the remaining yellow paint out of some of the grooves. And for those of you that have been paying attention, yes, this does mean that while we couldn't get to the upstairs bathroom because of our floors, we also didn't have a door on our downstairs bathroom. Luckily it's located away from the living room (where we spend most of the time) so it hasn't been as bad as it sounds. We just haven't invited any guests over :-)
Last night we were finally able to sleep back upstairs, which is good, I was ready to be done sleeping on the couch. I was noticeably more tired last week, even though I felt like I was sleeping ok. Even Reese is ready to have his dog bed back upstairs. Unfortunately, he has to wait another week, they are still banned from upstairs until then because of the floors. Last night they slept in the kitchen (with their dog beds), they barked a little at first, but I think they did ok. The cats are very happy to be out of the cage and have been spending lots of time upstairs.

I guess we did get our house flowers for Valentine's day :-) I've been wanting an orchid for awhile now, but I was always afraid the cats would eat it, or I would kill it. We got that little ivy plant a few weeks ago and it's been doing great in this window in the living room, so we decided to see how we do with an orchid. It looks very pretty now, I hope it stays that way.

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the floors are (re)finished!!

We had a very busy, but very productive weekend. I'll try to do a couple of posts today so you can all get caught up on our progress :-) But the floors are done and they look fantastic! They are even better than I hoped they would be. The floor guy said that he thinks there may be a few white oak boards in with our red oak, which is why there is even more variation in the wood. The semi-gloss finish is great, just the right amount of shine. And the floors still have a ton of character, which I love. If you look close, you can still see the nail marks, dents, etc. Saturday morning I just went upstairs with my cup of coffee and sat in that window seat, just looking at the floors. It's amazing how much more finished the entire second floor feels now, even if we're missing shoe molding, still have lots of horrible wallpaper, and have all the furniture crammed into one room.
I even have pretty floors in my closet! Here is the transition between the red oak and the hickory floors in the front small bedroom. While you can tell that they are different floors, it really doesn't look that bad and it's not super noticeable. Someday we'll have the floor guy come and put some new finish on the hickory floors, then they'll at least have the same shine as the oak floors.

Something I was not at all expecting (and I don't know why I wasn't expecting this) was that the floor guy did everything. He installed transition pieces at our bathroom door and at the exterior balcony door, where before we just had big gaps in the floor. He put this new transition strip in our bedroom in front of the window seat, there was an entire floor board missing before. He didn't take any payment until the work was completely finished. He put up plastic so dust wouldn't get downstairs. Even now, there is very little dust from the sanding. He showed up on time every morning, and cleaned up everything each night. I was very nervous about hiring work out, but I am so happy we went with this floor guy. In fact, we're considering having him come back and install the floors on our first floor now. We were thinking of putting in prefinished wood floors ourselves downstairs, but after seeing how these floors turned out, we might go with unfinished floors and have him finish them, and maybe even install them. We'll see, it might depend what the budget allows. But, if anyone in the St. Louis area needs a floor guy, let me know.


after the second coat

Thanks for all of the nice comments about the floors so far! They are looking even better after the second coat, sorry I didn't take any pictures, but the finish is just starting to even out and have a little more shine. The floor guy is coming today to do the final coat and if all goes well with the drying, we should be able to move furniture and start using the upstairs on Saturday.

Since you asked about the pets - they are doing ok... I've avoided writing about them the past couple of days cause I kind of feel like a bad pet owner. But, I will admit it - the cats have been living in the dog cage. It's a big dog cage!! They have their litter box, food, water, and a nice comfy cat bed. I know that it's really what is best for them cause I don't want them getting into the floor guy's stuff, or walking on the floors and getting floor finish on their paws, but I still feel bad. They yell/meow a lot, they don't like being in the cage. We have it set up in the dining room so at least they can see everything that is going on. Reese will go over and sit by the cage when they start to meow, I think he feels bad for them too. The dogs are doing fine, they just like to be where we are, and since we're downstairs, they are fine with being downstairs. We put a baby gate across the bottom of the stairs so they won't go upstairs, just in case. They are going to be really upset though next week when Mike and I can go upstairs and they can't. I feel like there's a good chance one of us will still have to sleep on the couch next week.

Oh, Mike also started priming the bathroom last night, maybe we'll actually get it painted tonight or tomorrow. Here's a picture of the wall color that we're putting in the bathroom:

And this is the color we're thinking of using in our bedroom, it's called light silver sage - at the store it looked really green but in our room the little swatch looks pretty blue. I was hoping for a light gray/blue/green color so I think this will look great. We might have Lowes color match though cause Restoration Hardware is not that close.


after the first coat

We can't walk on the floors. but they look great from the top of the stairs...

I had to turn the flash on because it was dark and we couldn't really reach the light switches, so the floor looks a little more orange in the pictures than it really is.

The second picture in our bedroom, now that the floors are getting finished the baseboards in that room look even more horrible... they are not the original baseboards so they don't match the rest of the house, and they are stained with a very red cherry stain that makes the fact that they don't match even more obvious. Plus they weren't installed very well. We are thinking of painting the baseboards in the room white, but leaving the window seat and the window frame alone (they are still the original). Hopefully that will look ok... we also might repaint the bedroom walls while all the furniture is out. It seems silly to repaint this room only after 6 months but the color is so light that it really just looks white, and we were hoping to add a little color to the room. We'll see how ambitious we are after the floors are done.



Mike sent me some pictures at work, I know that you all are just as impatient as I am to see the floor progress. They were able to get all the floors sanded today. Tomorrow they will buff the floors and put on the first coat of poly. I took an hour off work earlier today to go home and pick the stain color - we ended up picking just the natural poly finish, no stain. We were pretty sure that was what we wanted, but the floor guy was nice enough to show us some different options. They all looked great (and so much better than what we have) but the natural finish just really highlighted all of the great wood grain in the floors, and I think the lighter color will look best with the woodwork on the second floor. I meant to get a picture of all of the stain options on the floor, but he had already sanded them out by the time Mike went back upstairs with the camera. So far I'm super happy with how things are going, it makes me really nervous to have someone else working on our house.

The yellow carpet pad and glue gave him some issues when he was sanding, but he was able to get it all off! He hadn't done the edges yet in this picture.

The floors are going to look so much better, I can't wait to see them tomorrow after the first coat of poly. I think we're going with the semi-gloss finish, so they will be shiny, but not too shiny.

We may or may not start painting the downstairs bathroom tonight... last night was the first night of sleeping on the couches and it didn't go very well.


before floors

Well, the floor guy is starting tomorrow. We've been slowly clearing out the second floor over the last week, all we had left to do today was clear out our bedroom. We also realized that we needed to paint the radiators in the back bedrooms, we wanted to get that done before the floors were refinished.The den radiator was a light green, it matched the wallpaper, of course. There is also evidence that the woodwork in this room was also painted light green at one time, but luckily they did a good job of removing the paint and it just has a nice natural finish now.
White radiator, much better. The floors in the room are in ok shape, it looks like there was a rug that had been glued down to the middle of the room at one time, you can see where it was attached to the floor.

The guest room had a blue radiator (it matched that lovely blue carpet, and the wallpaper).Much better. I can't wait to remove the wallpaper in this room... it kind of hurts your eyes.
The floors in the room are covered in the carpet pad and carpet pad glue. The floor guy is just going to sand it all off, and hopefully the floors underneath look ok.The floors in our bedroom have a lot of random paint splatters.I think they just never used a drop cloth when painting.
He is also going to sand and refinish the hallway, there is a big "pet stain" in front of the back bedroom door (not from our pets, it was already there). He's not sure he can get the whole stain out, but hopefully it will be much less noticeable.
And here's the forth bedroom, it is packed full of all of our stuff:We still need to paint the radiator in this room, but that's the last one! I'll be sure to update with pictures as we go along, I can't wait to see how the floors look!


new (to us) chairs

3 posts in one day? Crazy! I just had to share with you our most recent purchase for the house though. I found these chairs on craigslist back in December. The guy was actually selling a table and 4 of these chairs were in the background of the picture. I emailed him and asked if he would sell me the chairs. He said he would, but the price was just way too much for it being right before Christmas. So I tried to forget about them, but I just couldn't. Last week I emailed him again and asked if he, by chance, still had the chairs. He did, and not only that, he actually had 10 of them, not just the 4 that I had originally seen. So Mike and I went to look at them over the weekend.

They are vintage Eames fiberglass chairs, made by Herman Miller in 1968. They have the stamp and the date on the bottom. I love them, I love their color, I love how they look with our table. They are so much more comfortable than our $20 Ikea chairs that we had before.

I don't love the stacking base. But, you can buy new reproduction bases in a few different styles. Here are my two favorites:
This is the Eiffel base

And this is the Dowel base. I love the dowel base but it is twice as expensive as the eiffel base.
Eventually, someday, I hope that we can get all new bases for our chairs. Because our chairs are stacking chairs though, they have the base mounts in a slightly different configuration (wide mount vs. narrow mount), so we'll need to either move the mounts to accommodate the new bases, or buy a conversion kit. Either way, new bases will cost more than what we paid for the chairs.
Being the bargain hunter that I am, we were able to get the guy to sell us 6 chairs for the price he was asking for 4. I still feel that we paid a little more than I would have liked, but I also feel that when buying chairs on craigslist, it is difficult to find 6 matching chairs. Similar sets sell on Ebay for much more than what I paid, so I'm ok with it.

Now I just need to start saving up for new bases...


snow and pets

I know that all of you in Ohio got a lot more snow than this last week, but we did get snow! This is a few days after so it was starting to melt. Our street looked so pretty in the snow, they don't plow our road which made it difficult to drive on, but it looked nice. Mike got to work from home for 2 days, but I wasn't so lucky. This picture was taken from the front bedroom. I love our street.The dogs loooove the snow and esp. love having the backyard so they can run around and play in it. When they were inside they kept giving me sad looks so I would feel bad and let them out to play some more. Reese is esp. good at looking pathetic.Over the weekend we watched our friends' dog. Cooper kept guarding all of his toys from the puppy, he's not very good with sharing.
The puppy loves Trevi and wanted to play with Trevi all of the time. Trevi was angry cause that meant he couldn't sleep on his new favorite chair cause the puppy could reach him. He has claimed this chair as his, he was actually meowing/yelling at some of our friends when they were sitting in the chair while watching the super bowl.

I think we all know who's really in charge at our house.


pictures, as promised

3 of the 5 built in shelves, they took up a lot of space.
the other 2 shelves, the one on the left has a light switch running through it with exposed wires... awesome. The light switch wasn't working so we just removed it and will replace it with a new switch, probably when we replace the overhead light. The light currently looks like this:Green ceiling fans really aren't my thing. Even more so when they are green with gold. This room also has matching green vertical blinds, hello 1980s. Those will be going also.We discovered this poor puzzle piece under a shelf. It made me sad, I always seem to be missing one piece whenever I do puzzles so I could only imagine their frustration. I almost felt bad throwing it away.
What the room looked like after the first day of moving stuff. Last night we got even more done but I forgot to take a picture. That cube shelf in the picture was a huge pain to put together. I bought it 3 or 4 years ago, and had put it together (with the instructions) at that time. When we moved to the house it wouldn't fit up the stairs so we had to take it apart. It came apart really easily, but I guess it didn't want to go back together as nicely. What you can't see is that all of the boxes on the top are actually holding the top piece down because even though it's screwed in on the ends, it kept popping off in the middle. Weird.

I also don't know what I'm going to do with that little pine desk. I got it as a present from my parents when I was little. It doesn't really work to put a computer on, and we already have another desk for the computer anyway. Hopefully we can find a place for it.

Oh, I almost forgot about this - when we removed the shelves we found that the baseboards behind the shelves weren't stained. So now we have to try to match the stain for 1/2 the baseboards. And we also realized that this room is horribly constructed. When the previous owner put up drywall over the plaster they never removed any of the woodwork so all of the drywall is just cut to go around the woodwork - resulting in the wall actually sticking out farther than the woodwork in some places. There are also some cracks in places from where that side of the house settled a little (remember the stairs? It's along that wall.) The closet was apparently built without a level. I'm hoping that once we paint and stain and fix some of the cracks, some of the other imperfections won't be as noticeable :-)



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