A fresh start for 2013

Before hallway
Before hallway

As the new year opens, we’re looking forward to moving fully back into our house.  December brought a chaotic holiday for us as we moved everything from downstairs outside or upstairs in preparation to have our floors refinished.  We had been planning all year to take a week away on a family trip with my parents and sister’s family over Christmas.  This was the perfect time to have someone come in and do our floors.  The hassle was moving all the furniture and stuff out and yet being able to still live with toddler Will and Heidi in a normal-ish fashion the week before we left.

We left on a Friday, and Deb Haye started work right away, working over Christmas, through a sinus infection and putting on the last coat of polyurethane the day we returned.  Thankfully, before we got home, a dear neighbor started airing out the house with fans and cracked windows.  However, the cold and snowy weather is still hard on getting a home aired out.  It took over 4 days to air out the house in 25 degree and below weather with fans and windows open.  But, it is worth it.  Oh, and yes, we are still living completely upstairs and will be for another full week.  But, it is worth it.  Oh, and we can’t put our carpets down for another 6 weeks.  But, it is worth it.  You have to see this floor in person to get the full understanding of the difference this has made in the house.

Looking down the front hall to the front door
From Living looking into Dining
From Living looking into Dining
After shot
After shot

For Bill, this was the most irritating part of our work not yet done.  He wanted these floors done the first month we moved in, and while I appreciated his aesthetic desires, I just wanted to cover them for a while to make them livable while we dealt with other matters.  However, the dust and dirt and cat urine ground into the floors was getting to me.  I couldn’t mop them, because they were too rough, and I couldn’t easily dust them because the cracks were too big, and the nail heads caught and splinters would come off.  So, I got some area rugs and dealt.

But the week away gave us the open window.  It didn’t feel worth it when I was moving my couch into my kitchen at 9:45 pm 2 weeks ago, but wow, see the difference for yourself.

Shortly before we left, Bill pulled up the plywood in the hallway before the basement stairs and replaced that area with boards from the basement, all types of hardwood.  He made it work and Deb Haye’s finishing job blended it all together beautifully.  It is amazing how much good wood is in this house.  Now to spruce up all the cherry moulding!  Oh, and to get that horrendous acrylic ball light in the hallway replaced.

From front door looking through living and dining
From front door looking through living and dining
After shot
After shot

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.

What we’re working on now

Living Room with completed fireplace

As you can see, having a busy one year old has slowed down our progress.  Not only that, but we are a bit wearisome of plastering.  So, we are moving on to other things, smaller tidbits and outside work now that the weather is getting really nice. We finished up the light fixture and fireplace in the living room.  Bill had to rewire the light from its original 1890’s work and we polished it nicely.  I stenciled the ceiling and we hooked it up.  Next, Bill fitted cherry moulding onto the mantel to fit it around the pellet stove and put it into place.  All complete, whew.  The only thing needed now in there is floor refinishing.  We are looking into hiring someone to do the floors.  Not that we don’t want to do it ourselves, but we want it done really well and rather quickly with a little one.  It will be easiest to have them completed while we are on our winter vacation in December.  So, we’ll see.

I mentioned above that we have been aching to get to some outside work.  The past three summers at this house has seen us weeding, mowing, pruning and clipping desperately to get back to some sort of semblance of “trim”.  With over 15 years of almost no yard work outside, we’ve had a lot to combat.  This weekend, we started really digging into a flowerbed.  As this is the fourth summer we have lived at 60 West Main, we really want to plant a few things permanently, and I have been dying to have berries.  I love the idea of an edible, renewable garden, that attracts bees and butterflies.  Though I know little of gardening, I am starting somewhere to make this house beautiful on the outside and easier to maintain.  I started on a bed in the backyard, as it gets a lot of sun and I think it makes the most sense for edible plants.  Though the front yard needs work, too, I just needed to work somewhere that I walk past regularly.  And, I like to sit on the back porch in the evenings with Bill.  The whole yard will one day be a lovely garden, I’m sure.  Once the baby is up and ready, he will be outside with us, in a sandbox or pool, or digging for worms.  I look forward to doing that all together.  But honestly, a weekend with Bill in the yard was just what I needed.  You can see here how much we had to weed and de-rock.  And, there were a few wires to pull.  One wire goes under the entire yard to electrify the garage.  The other wire dead ended somewhere, but we believe it had originally lit a small raised bed that we pulled out at the beginning of the first summer.  I have a lot of weeds to pull out to complete this bed and a Japanese quince to trim, but I’m looking forward to planting raspberries and lavender here.  Possibly some flox and some bulbs of some sort, too.  We’ve been building a great compost pile for the past 2 years, so I’ll have some natural fertilizer.  Now the task will be to keep Heidi from digging.

First garden bed

Next on our list is to refinish some indoor furniture pieces and complete a set of bookshelves.  Really, the books are the only things standing in our way of putting a floor in the servants’ stair closet.  I’ll fill you in more on that project down the road.

Before and After. . . Renovations so far

Dining room, before we began
Dining room, complete with lemon trees

Here are a few images to give you an idea of how far we’ve come in 2 and a half years.  We still have a ways to go, but our house has become “ours”.  I’ll move through the images based on the order in which we completed the work.

We moved in during July of 2009, but since we were only renting (waiting on our loan to go through), we didn’t want to start any major work.  We spent the summer cleaning out the house, pruning back vines and readying for our paint crew.

When the outdoor work was underway, we began by cleaning up the kitchen and sealing the pantry.  We pulled carpet out of the laundry room, which I still haven’t show you.

And then we started the big work.  Since the dining room looked as though it would be one of the easier rooms, we started there.

Library with window still boarded
Library finished

Next we worked on the library, though we still have yet to put in shelves.

Bathroom before demolition
Completed bath

Then we started upstairs with the full bath and alongside we painted the kitchen.  It took us a LOOONG time to do the bath because we had to remove crappy wallpaper, which was adhered with caulk and a soldering gun.  Just kidding, but it was put on eerily strong.

Kitchen, fall 2009
Kitchen, freshly painted

We stayed upstairs to work on the master bedroom and redid the ceiling in the dining room, not even a year later.  Then we began the nursery and finished up with the living room, where we are still putting final details in place.

Pantry in progress
Pantry, painted

We’ve yet to redo anymore floors except for the master bedroom, though we did consider having someone else come in and do them for us.  We are still debating what to do there.  Such a big job for us.

We still have yet to put up the chandelier in the living room and attach the mantle, though Bill has completed it.

Master Bedroom, with windows covered
Master Bedroom completed, except for ceiling fan and stencil
Nursery first used as our bedroom
Nursery with mural begun

Once those pieces are in place, he will begin our bookshelves!  I cannot wait to get all my books in place.  I feel as though we still haven’t moved in because my books are waiting patiently in boxes all over the house.  I’m not a hoarder by any stretch, nor a collector of anything in particular, but I do love books.  And, thankfully, Bill loves building and working with wood, so this will be a great project for us both.

While Bill is working on the shelves, I have yet to finish painting and stenciling several areas in the house.  I am also going to draft up plans for our garden.  I’d like to get some flowerbeds in place this spring, for once.

Living room, first week moved in
Living Room complete!

Finally. . . our Victorian Living Room!

Bill repainting the living room

Whew, it has been a big and busy year for the Berthels.  We moved back into the living room this weekend, after putting on the sixth and final coat of ceiling paint.  Yeah, six.  Well, you heard about it being too glossy.  Then, we needed to put on 3 coats of matte to get it just right.  I can’t say I’m completely pleased, as I am a precise and finicky painter, but it is livable.  We cleaned the woodwork, scoured the floor, touched up the walls and moved back in.  I still need to oil the woodwork and Bill is finishing the mantel detail, but we moved in.  And, we need to hang the light.  I think we’re both worn out, though, frankly.

To recap 2011, we opened the year with a full pregnancy on my part and Bill hurriedly moving through the floor in the master bedroom so that we could have a place to settle the baby.  We spent the first four months living in the guest room and downstairs because the smell of those floors was so strong.  The newborn took all of our energy and time, and yet, we began putting up sheetrock.  AND while we were living in the rest of the house, we began re-plastering the nursery, in anticipation that our little one would be moving in there by late spring.  Well, as most things go, that took us a while and it was late summer before Will lived in his room.  SO, while that room became livable, we tore apart the living room, in hopes that we could plaster and paint and be done by the holidays.  It is the holidays, so we had to move in.

We decided to fore go refinishing the rest of the floors, until we could find the product we liked and the time opened up for us to do the work without sacrificing Will’s lungs or our sanity.  As of yet, we don’t know when that process will be complete, but I can say that we’re feeling the need to rest and work on the details.  With so many tidbits to finish up, I don’t know when we’ll begin the next big project.  Right now, we have two bedrooms to refinish, one bath to redo, one laundry room, a garage to paint, floors all over to refinish and all of the hallways to rework.  There is a lot left to do. . . but a lot more time to do it.

Moved in finally

Right now, we are going to enjoy our little guy and complete the little things we have going on.  I have lots of painting to keep me busy and Bill will share his woodworking as it progresses.

In the meantime, enjoy your holidays.  And write when you get a chance, we love hearing from you.

Is the painting finished yet?

Putting up masking to repaint the ceiling

Technically, no.  Well, maybe.  Okay, I’m honestly not sure anymore.  We’ve repainted the walls and now the ceiling, so everything has about 4 coats of paint and at least one coat of primer.  It is our living room after all, so we’ve wanted it to look absolutely perfect and it has taken a while to get there.  We switched brands of paint as well as colors for the room in mid stride and ended up not liking the results.  So, after some debating a lot of test mixing, we finally found the right wall color and then Bill wanted to repaint the ceiling to a matte finish so that it looked smoother.  I can’t blame him, and yet it was just too much for me to think about.  I’m ready to be done already.  I think we’re honestly both tired of living in the dining room.  Not to mention, once this room is actually finished, it will be the first time in 2.5 years that we’ll live in the house in all the rooms.   Since we moved in back in July of 2009 we have yet to occupy all the rooms of the house and enjoy them all at once.  Once we move back into the living room, all ten rooms in the house will be used to their full capacity, and we’ll take a much needed break from plaster work.  Oh, there is plenty more to be done, but Bill is going to do some wood working and I”m going to paint for a while, maybe a long while.

The final choice of green

So, this is the living room at this point.  I haven’t yet decided if I really want to stencil this whole room.  I know, I know.  I have started creating a stencil for it and I’ve talked big about it, and now I’m changing my mind again.  The walls look really nice plain and I’ve picked out a ceiling stencil.  Thinking I might just hang art and pictures and let it go at that.  I’ve decided how to stencil the front hall and with a patterned rug, it might be enough. (I do realize that I owe you a stencil tutorial.)

We aren’t going to buy rugs for a while, though, considering that Will is enjoying the walker right now and the hardwood floor works well for him.  So, we rolled up the other rugs downstairs so he can maneuver room to room on his own.

The Christmas tree is planted squarely in our front window this year, a different spot than the previous two years.  It will be hard to decide the permanent place for the tree, but it seems to belong in this room for the long haul.  Now to place the furniture and think through how the baby will get around and what he’ll want to pull down or crumple.  Once everything is in place, I’ll post some completed photos and take you on a house tour as of where we are right now.  I just want to get all the plastic down and tools put away first.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!