Winter Work

Okay, it looks brighter in this photo than it really is.
Okay, it looks brighter in this photo than it really is.

We have been getting a few things done this winter, although I feel I truly should be hibernating with a large cup of tea and a book.  It has been ridiculously cold and snowy for most of us in the north east, and I’m complaining because I still have southern bones.  It is sort of strange to me when I walk outside in 40 degrees and think, “WOW, I don’t need a coat!”

Bill and I have gone our ways and worked on individual projects.  I have started taking down wallpaper in the guest bath and refinishing my hallway linen chest.  Bill has continued to work on his “closet” and organized his workshop for preparations on making a new bed for Will.  We have each spent numerous hours keeping our cabin fever at bay and helping our toddler do the same.  If we ever get warmed up again and get going outside, I’ll post more.

In the meantime, here is a shot of my linen chest.  It won’t be lined, but a good place to store some of my collection.

Cordia’s legacy in our home

1930s couch and chair
1930s couch and chair

I haven’t shared much of our family history here, yet, as this blog is primarily about our actual house.  But, what is creating our house and making it a home is our roots, our ancestral history, the history of the time our home was built, and the history of each of our families. . .so I thought I’d start sharing a bit of those pieces, too.

When one purchases a large home, there is a daunting task of furnishing it.  We didn’t have much when we bought this place, as I have moved every 2 years for the past 18 years and Bill sold a lot of his pieces when he sold his last house.  So, we scraped together what we had, bought a couch and a table and that has been about it, oh, and started scouring antique malls.  Upstate NY has fabulous antique places.

c.1930s chair, upholstered on the back, too in the original fabric
c.1930s chair, upholstered on the back, too in the original fabric

However, I have been fortunate to have garnered some furniture that has been in my family for a century.  My mother’s godmother and my grandmother’s cousin, Cordia Grunewald had some wonderful pieces.  I remember seeing them in her apartment when we would visit for Thanksgiving years ago.  I remembering thinking how grand her bed was and how quaint the couch.  I was attracted to antiques as a young teen and chose them for my own bedroom when I had it redone in high school.  So, I had a natural inclination towards Cordia’s furniture when she moved into assisted living.  None of my mom’s 3 siblings or their children wanted the furniture, so I really scored!  I have attained the couch and chair as well as a large mirror for our living area.  For our bedroom, I was given a headboard, footboard and 2 dressers.  I’m not sure what type of wood this is, though.  Mahoghany maybe?

These pieces are circa 1903, from Cordia’s parents’ first bedroom.  Cordia always had a trunk at the base of her bed, so my father gave one to me that he found and lined with cedar.

Our bed set up on a queen size frame even though the original was full.
Our bed set up on a queen size frame even though the original was full.

The couch and living room chair are circa 1930’s from their living room and I cannot guess the date on the large mirror above our mantel, but it is plaster with gold guilding.  I feel so lucky to be enjoying these pieces as they fit beautifully into our home and still look grand.

Cordia, as most of my mother’s side, was of German heritage.  An only child, she went into the army and also became a teacher.  She traveled the world and knew the important tidbits to save, like special old coins and stamps.  She never married or had children of her own, so our family grew close to her, spending Christmas’s and many Thanksgivings together.  I think of her often as Will climbs on her couch and removes the heavy horsehair cushions.

Corida around the time of high school graduation, circa 1920.
Corida around the time of high school graduation, circa 1920.

I think she’d smile and giggle to see her family’s things enjoyed so much.  And I think she would be happy to know how much we are appreciating them.

Always moving in

It does feel that way, like we’re always moving in.  I continually move some boxes of books from closet to closet and every once in a while, consolidate or unpack one.  When we find a new piece of furniture that we like and purchase, we then reorganize whatever room it will reside.

This week, I purchased a small dresser for $25 and loads of books, my shopping weakness.  I also found a roll top desk for Bill, which thanks to my parents visit . . . we purchased and moved into the library.  Thanks mom and dad.  It needs a little work as some of the laminate is peeling, but it is very clean and already usable.  Considerably better than the cheap drafting table we had in place for Bill.  I’ll get my own roll top soon once we refinish the oak one waiting in the basement.  However, it needs a whole season’s worth of overhaul first.  With the move of the new desk, Bill reorganized a few tidbits and I shelved books.

The small dresser I found will be repainted and used to store platters and table linens.  I might line it with cedar, too.  For the time being, it will be a hallway dresser with a little light, creating a nook out of the downstairs hall.  I’ll post photos when that project is complete.

Bill also rearranged the basement this week as it is pellet season and we bought four tons for winter heating.  That sounds like a lot, but it saves us thousands of dollars in oil which we would otherwise need.  The only downside to the pellet stove is the weekly cleaning and fan  noise it makes, which isn’t much considering its heat output.

This upcoming week, I’ll be painting in the studio and completing another Peter Rabbit piece for Will’s room.  Hopefully by Christmas, I can hang at least three of them, if not all four that I have planned.  Bill is working on the mud room right now; posts to come on that project.
No pics for this post, but more to come. . .

Finished Furniture

Will train table; yes, it is as big as his bed

Once again, I have been asked quite a bit lately what Bill and I are working on right now.  Well, for both of us, it is a bit different.  We are both finishing small projects and finalizing details on some bigger ones.  Bill has been working steadily in his shop getting it organized.  It makes for much better work when he can find the  hardware that he needs.  The basement has a long way to go, but Bill has tossed a lot of stuff this summer and keeps it dry down there with a de-humidifier.  He has spread his shop out to organize the wood, tools and space in the best manner.  Since doing so, he has completed Will’s train table and a bookshelf.

Will’s room still isn’t as complete as I’d like it to be for his 17 month old self.  Course, I was supposed to have his paintings completed before he moved in a year ago, but that hasn’t happened.  So, that is my current project.  I have at least four to do, and I haven’t yet finalized the first.  He will be 17 by the time I’m done, probably, so I hope he likes decorating his dorm room with Peter Rabbit.

Playing with Dad

But, Bill finished his toddler table, a wonderful wooden table for all the trains that Will is into these days.  We live about 1/4 mile from the tracks and we hear trains at least 5 times a day, sometimes we get to see them.  Will is enjoying playing with trains and tractors and has needed a place to “drive” them for a while now.

The bookcase/shelf that had been on our porch airing out has now been moved into the living room, along with the desk that I refinished for the TV.  Both pieces complete our living and keep it cozy.  But, I still have loads of books in boxes upstairs.  The finished furniture allowed us to clear out the hallway closet so that Bill can start working on that space.  However, we still need to put up shelves in the library for the entire collection and more that I will amass in my lifetime.  No hurry, though.  Completing some of these smaller projects makes the house feel more complete in a different way.  And, we never replace quality time with Will in lieu of a house project.

Refinished desk for our TV stand

So, while I’m painting and Bill is creating a quiet music studio for himself, Heidi putters around downstairs looking for dropped cereal, and Will makes constant train sounds.  It is a good life.

What are we working on now, you ask?

Airing on the porch, about 7′ tall and 30″ wide.

I’ve been asked this a few times over the last several weeks.  It appears as though we aren’t doing much when I don’t write it up here and post the photo journal alongside.  However, we continue to plod along, on smaller projects as of late.

Furniture.  We’re doing furniture and gardening right now.

We’ve just finished a bookcase to match the other in our living room and its presence will allow me to finally unpack the final book boxes sitting in closets for the past 3 years.  Right now, it is sitting on the front porch airing out, hopefully to lose the waxy smell so we can bring it in soon.  It will live in our living room for the long haul.  Even though we’re going to build a full floor to ceiling set of bookshelves in the library eventually, I will still need all the shelving I can get.  I’m now housing toys and baby books and DVDs in the living room, too.  So storage is of the utmost priority.

I have been refinishing a pine desk that we use to hold our TV and DVDs.  It was a dark shellaced piece that we found at the Bouckville Antique Show.  The front has four drawers and the top folds down to be a desk, but it can stay folded to resemble a small dresser.  At first I waxed it, but this year, I wanted to repair all of the scratches.  So, I’m stripping it down and lightly sanding.  I can’t decide at this point whether to stain or just clear coat the wood.  Aged pine is quite nice.

Bill has been working on a table for Will’s room.  Now that he is a toddler (and I never finished the nursery mural), we have changed some of his furnishings.  We added a bookcase for more of his books and animals and we’ll put in this table for his trains.   Will is so interested in trains and cars the past several weeks; I can’t imagine this changing anytime soon.  We are collecting the Thomas wooden railway for him, so he could use a nice play table.

Besides this furniture, there are several pieces in our basement that need refinishing and new upholstery which I’ll slowly tackle this summer.  Bill will begin work on the hall closet, adding a floor and lighting.  That will be a whole other post, though.

Pine desk, in stripping stage

We’re waiting for a while to work on plaster or scrape down the garage.  Lead paint is an issue here, and we don’t want to work on areas in the house that could cause lead dust for Will’s sake.  So far, the rooms we’ve completed with him around have been very light on lead.  But we are eager to redo the garage and get it cleaned up, along with the floors, repaving the drive, building a wine cellar, adding bookshelves, finishing the guest room, redoing the downstairs bath, redesigning the laundry and kitchen and laying a stone wall out back.

There will always be something we are doing; and there is plenty to do.  So, please ask!  It might prompt a blog post.

Moved in

The master bedroom is complete and we moved in this weekend.  I have a touch up of stenciling to do, but other than that — it is a livable, decorated space.

Painted cornice and velvet curtains

You can see that we completed the paint job by painting in a cornice moulding around the top of the room in the trim color, leaving the lines crisp.  Without the furniture, it looks rather tailored and formal, unlike the frilly Victorian feel the room would have originally had, likely with flowered wallpaper.  So, the stenciling should help that feel quite a bit.  As I mentioned earlier, I may go ahead and stencil the whole room, but I’ll have to sit with that for a while before I take the leap.  Doing one wall is weeks worth of work.


The wood furniture is turn of the century, coming from my grandmother’s cousin’s parents, known in the family as Uncle Gus and Aunt Ella.  The bed, dresser and gentleman’s bureau were their personal bedroom furniture.  I am very lucky to have these pieces as they fit beautifully into our home and are in wonderful condition.

The  black and white upholstered chair was my Christmas gift from Bill.  I had wanted a nice glider or rocker for the baby’s arrival, but something that would endure many years and not look dated.  This is what I chose, a glider that is also a recliner.  Very comfy and a nice contrast to the solid gray walls.

Nursery Nook

The nook is also completely furnished with the baby’s goodies: crib, dresser and changing table.  We’ll plan to have the baby with us in the nook until his room is ready for moving in, likely at least five months.

Now that we’re all moved in, we’ll be taking a close look at our old bedroom, the octagon room, and deciding how to attack it next.  Eventually it will be the baby’s full time room, to be decorated in turquoise and chocolate with a Peter Rabbit theme.  (You can tell I’ve been ready to do this one a while.)  Pictures and process yet to come!

Stenciled wall behind the bed