The Walls Come Down

The people of New York tend to be very preoccupied with their cable and internet providers. It’s one of those things that actually works fine most of the time, but when it doesn’t, we tend to direct all of our collective hatred and loathing at the provider (see also: the G train, the MTA). Added to this is the lack of choice in most New York apartment buildings, where a single service provider has monopolized the building. We are led to resent this provider for coercing us into their clutches, and in turn impeding on our freedom of choice. Whatever the reason, I’ve had some iteration of the same conversation at least 400 times:

Them: Who’s your internet provider?
Me: Time Warner Cable.
Them: UGH, me too. Isn’t it the worst? I fucking hate Time Warner.
Me: Yeah, our service is kind of lousy. It’s the only option in our building.
Third Person, from across the room: I have Comcast!
Me + Them: GO TO HELL, HEATHEN.
Them: Anyway, you don’t have cable, do you?
Me: Actually, I do. Time Warner gave us an awesome deal.
Them: I’ve never gotten an awesome deal from Time Warner Cable.

It’s true. A while ago, I got one of those special promotion phone calls, which normally I ignore. This particular day, I was feeling friendly and decided to let them try to sell me one of those packages before I hung up. I insisted that I didn’t need a home phone, but when they asked if I wanted cable, I paused. “I mean, yeah, it’d probably be nice.”

Short story long, they unearthed some super secret wonderful promotion that allowed us to get 250 channels and a DVR for 2 years for $15 more than we’d been paying just for our crappy internet alone. SOLD.

I love TV. I have always loved TV. I love all kinds of TV, but mostly, I love garbage TV. In fact, my decision to get rid of cable in the first place when I moved to Brooklyn (I had it in my last apartment), was based mostly upon the fact that Bridalplasty was a terrible abomination of a show when held up against my previous loves, Extreme Makeover and The Swan. Old standbys like Intervention and Hoarders had ceased to really hold my interest, Flava Flav’s Flavor of Love and its spin-off, I Love New York, hadn’t been on for years, and frankly, there just isn’t anything quite that magical on TV anymore. Finding Storage Wars completely unwatchable, it got to a point where there just wasn’t enough lovable garbage on the tube to justify paying the cost of a couple burritos every month for it. I’d rather have the burritos.

But then the deal happened, a cable box and DVR was installed, and the world of television reopened to me.

You guys. There is Doomsday Preppers. There is My Strange Addiction. There is Pit Bulls and Parolees, and also, there is Pit Boss. TV is back, and more garbage-y than ever. (Except when The Swan was on. That will always be the pinnacle of garbage TV, forever.)

So one day, cruising through the guide, I stumbled upon a show entitled Rehab Addict. Obviously my interest was piqued, because I assumed it was a show about people addicted to rehab. What a conundrum! What do you do with somebody who, in the process of getting clean and getting help, gets addicted to the very help they seek?! Not help them at all? This was never addressed in my many marathon sessions of Intervention. This I had to see.

Unfortunately, Rehab Addict has nothing to do with unsuspecting drug addicts.

Fortunately, Rehab Addict is probably a lot better than that show would have been, although really, who’s to say? If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a show about Nicole Curtis, who buys, restores, and sells old and decrepit houses in Detroit and Minneapolis. She’s also a realtor, does some freelance design stuff on the side, and has two dogs and a son. And a TV show, obviously. Nicole is like 100 pounds of adorable Midwestern-y strength and resolve. She’s savvy and she’s strong. Girl demo’d a whole bathroom, by herself, in like 30 minutes flat. She’s got the true grit.

Needless to say, I am obsessed with all things Nicole Curtis. Nicole Curtis is actually inspiring and actually has great taste, which puts her in a league of her own for home renovation reality TV, as far as I’m concerned. I. LOVE. HER. I find myself thinking about Nicole an unreasonable amount as we do this whole old house reno thingy.

Particularly, this segment of the introduction, which I have immortalized in sloppy animated GIF form for your viewing pleasure. It’s really nothing without her adorable exasperated Michigan accent, but you can look that up on Youtube:

[gickr.com]_2c5af7b5-92da-4d24-9129-57b647dc4dad

Look at her! Working that pry bar like a champ.

beforehallway

You see, we had a similar situation to that piece of plywood under the banister, except way bigger and uglier than that. But still! So many opportunities to repeat my favorite little Nicole Curtis bit. Max wanted to kill me all the time because of this, but I don’t care! Pretending you’re a tiny blonde woman from TV is a totally fun and normal way to partake in home renovations. Try it sometime!

We’ve been trying really hard to focus on the kitchen and keep our hands off the rest of the house (starting a bunch of projects in a bunch of rooms at once = not advisable for maintaining sanity), but I felt like these walls just couldn’t wait. They weren’t really causing any problems or affecting anything, but they were just so super duper ugly and sad. Since they seemed like they were just made of some flimsy faux-panelling and framing, I figured they’d take about 4 seconds to rip out, after which we could move on with our day and get a bunch of other things done.

HA. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh Daniel. You were so young and so foolish then.

demo1

Here are some exciting action shots of the wall in the downstairs hallway coming down. It’s REALLY hard to stop and take pictures during this kind of stuff, but we did the best we could. Basically, our strategy was to work slowly and from the outside-in, essentially removing materials in the opposite order that they were added originally. We didn’t want to disrupt any woodwork or further damage the surrounding plaster walls and stuff, so we couldn’t just throw a sledgehammer at it a few times and watch it all come down in a dramatic heap of debris.

Also, yeah. I demo in khakis?

So, that thing about the wall being easy? False. Not only did one side have 1/2″ plywood under the panelling, the whole thing was also insulated. That’s why I’m wearing my fancy respirator, by the way. We drenched all of the fiberglass insulation (not asbestos, based on much frantic google searching) in soapy water from a spray bottle as we exposed/removed it to contain any untoward particles, but I don’t know. The mask feels very pro.

Anyway, this thing was not built particularly well, but it was very strong. Even though it’s a small wall, it took us somewhere between 2 and 3 hours from start to finish.

downstairshallwayafter1

downstairshallwayafter2

But OMG, SO MUCH BETTER, right? I know this is the most predictable observation for me to have, but it really did make the space feel so much bigger and more open, and somehow made the whole ceiling seem about a foot taller. It brought a little more light into the entry hallway, but that’ll really happen with the still-standing vestibule wall finally comes down. That thing is driving me crazy.

stairs-at-top

The coolest thing that the wall was hiding is how the stair turns at the top! All of this was covered in a mix of plywood, 2×4’s, and wood paneling before, but now it’s right there! So pretty!

demo2

The upstairs wall happened a few days later, with the added muscle and help of our friend, Nora! Nora is the best ever. She stayed with us for over a week helping out with the house, and kind of became our voice of reason, along with adding manpower and determination. She’s tougher than she looks.

That first picture was my “Why in the hell would you cover that up??” Nicole Curtis moment, by the way. Well, one of them. Obviously I know why it was covered up, but it’s still fun to say.

Also, yeah. I demo in hot pink shirts?

framingupstairs

Check it out! As expected, the whole wall had been built around a totally-intact banister! It’s a little bit wobbly and some of the spindles are crooked, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed pretty easily.

This wall was similarly poorly constructed but also exceedingly strong, by the way. There was a ton of lumber  inside, in many different shapes and sizes. The piece of framing at the end of the banister where it meets the wall was actually bolted through the wall and secured inside the closet, with weird rigid metal wires running from the heads of the bolts to the other stud in the corner. You can kind of see this in the picture…it doesn’t really matter, I just thought it was noteworthy.

hallwayafter2

hallwayafter1

BOOM. Even though, um, everything in this photo needs some love, isn’t it amazing how all of a sudden this feels like a real space? So exciting. Taking down this wall also helped a TON with air circulation and keeping the upstairs from heating up like an oven, so I’m really glad we took the time out to do it.

Now that the easy-ish, brutish labor is mostly out of the way, I can’t wait to start working on the entryway and hallways. They’re going to be so pretty.

House
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133 Comments

  1. This is basically my dream. I really admire you guys for taking the leap with this house. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  2. That is an amazing banister so I totally share your “Why in the hell would you cover that up?” thought.

  3. Awesome! I’m so excited to be watching your progress on the house, and this was a great improvement. That light coming down the hallway!

  4. OMG! It looks sooooooo much better!!! That upstairs hallway is so gorgeous. Ugh, I’m starting to fall in love with this house! p.s. you’re a great writer. You always keep my interest piqued and I hate when the writing ends :(

  5. I am sure you already looked this up before you tore these walls down but during the whole time reading I was like ‘omg what if those were SUPER UGLY loadbearing walls?!” Please tell me they’re not so I can stop being anxious. PS: The transformation is AMAZING.

  6. *whew* What a relief! Bravo on taking that bastard wall down!

    Hippie-dippy ahead: The house looks like it can actually breathe now. It looks happy, like Linus did when he figured out what was in store for him with you guys.

  7. Beautiful. So great to see the sins of previous owners removed!

    Our place also had a covered banister, but unfortunately the boards were nailed to some of the staves, so although it left us with a lot more light when we removed it, we still haven’t got round to fixing up what was there afterward.

    We also had a stud wall like yours. In our case, it separated a room into a (nasty dark poky spooky) corridor and a (tiny cramped hideous pointless yuk) bedroom. When we bought the house, neither of us liked going into that room – which was a bit of a problem, because the freezer lived in there for a while. Like, ‘something is watching you’ nasty. We eventually got the wall taken down – and discovered that it had been built *on top* of the original carpet – rather than bother taking the carpet up, the builder had just carved two channels into it to accept the plasterboard on either side of the studwork. The 3 inch wide strip of carpet was still there in the middle of the wall!

    Removing that wall opened up the space, but even so weird things kept happening. In the end we got a medium to come in and sort it, and then things were fine. That room is now our dining room/den…

    Good luck with the rest of the sins – I can hardly wait to see the results! And I hope you don’t find any walls built on top of carpet!

  8. Oh I love how it turned out!! As soon as I saw those pictures I thought–those betches need to COME. DOWN. So nice there was a lovely bannister surprise waiting for you. I’m so excited to see how this space transforms!

  9. I can hear the sigh of relief the house is making up to here and across the ocean – well done!!!

    • Exactly what I was thinking, Isabelle. The house is like AHHHHHHHHHH.

  10. Soooooooooo so so much better. Well worth the hours.

  11. Where can you watch Rehab Addict if you don’t have cable?! It must be somewhere on glorious ol’ Roku.

    • It looks like you can buy it on Youtube? I didn’t even know you could buy things on Youtube?

    • You can buy them on Amazon Instant Video and stream them. And if you are a Prime member they are FREE! Totally know what I am doing witht he rest of my free time this week.

    • You can watch it free on Hulu. That’s where I have been looking at it…..

  12. Good lord, what an improvement! I’m renovating a 100-year-old craftsman in Seattle now, and I feel you on grossly underestimating the time each little task will take. Love The Swan shoutout! That show was the best/worst. xo

  13. OH WOWOWOWIE! SO MUCH BETTER! I’m now at the point where I can absolutely look past all the other gross stuff you’re going to have to fix up, and would absolutely move in with you just to get to help make that hallway and stairwell gorgeous.

  14. So very pretty and amazing with that ratchet wall gone upstairs! I can breathe! Is it wrong that whenever I see bannisters like that all I can think about is Christmas decorating? Great swags of greenery, Jimmy Stewart with little Zou-zou, every time a bell rings sorta moment? If it’s wrong I don’t want to be right…

  15. YES YES YES! Now you have officially returned your house back to its single family origins. I don’t know why, but this reno makes me so happy.

  16. Watching all of this recent demo work is so supremely sastifying and it’s not even my house. I agree with those that say it looks like the house can actual breathe now. Incidentally, if I was a tenant living in one of those two apartments, I would have felt super claustrophobic. The owners just did not do a good job, IMO, of seperating the two spaces.

    • Yeah, on one hand, they did a shoddy looking job, but on the other hand, I’m actually glad they did! They were really careful of not messing permanently with the original layout of the house, and I’m really glad they didn’t try to tear down or add real walls or anything like that! On that upstairs wall, there was a cross-brace piece of framing that extended into a piece of doorframe molding, where they had actually cut the piece of lumber to fit around the contours of the molding, if that makes sense.

      Anyway, it’s not the best looking thing in the world, but SO much better than some of the alternatives could have been in terms of undoing it!

      • I am very much with you on that point – it’s much better that way than for instance having chunks cut out of a century old plaster cornice to fit a partition wall…

      • Very great point! So now as you are stripping it down, you are left with some really great architectural details that will make the end result stunning. I’m having so much fun watching this process.

  17. You are making real progress in making this space your own. So happy for you both! Even the pups seem so at home and calm!

  18. Just love reading along as you tackle this beauty. Can’t wait to see how it all progresses!

  19. Everyone is saying this in the comments, but you can practically feel the sigh of relief now that those walls are gone. The house can breathe. :) You guys do good work.

    Just out of curiosity — the banister ends in a bump-out wall (probably the wrong term for it). Is that wall original? It looks original (as in plaster lathe), but looking at the second to last picture in your post it feels like the rail should keep going all the way to the right-hand wall and that bump out shouldn’t be there.

    • Yes! agreed – that upstairs hallway closet was definitely added later, and that bannister would have originally fully spanned that head of the staircase.
      Also – now that I can see down the lovely sun-lit hallway, that downstairs bathroom door frame *really* looks like the door out to the front porch, and I bet that originally went into the back yard.
      Everyone has said how amazing the stairs and both hallways look without the dividers, so I’ll just agree with all of it. And I completely understand, seeing those pics of the ugly-color, style-mismatched, crude space-chopping walls and doors, how irresistible it was to pull it out, no matter how many other urgent fixes are on your list.

      • Yeah, I don’t know! It’s possible the closet isn’t completely original, but I think it’s definitely very old. The plaster & lathe, the baseboards/moldings all match, and the flooring in the closet is the pine subfloor, not the nicer floor in the rest of the upstairs. Guessing that flooring was installed sometime around the turn of the century, so the closet likely pre-dates that. I don’t know, though!

  20. LOVE Rehab Addict… in fact it is the only thing I miss on cable now that we are without. Watching her show actually inspired me to buy an old house (although not one that needed a total rehab).

    Love reading along with all of your progress! The stair detail and the banister are awesome!

  21. This is AWESOME! I know the feeling of discovering original details. It feels like some Indiana Jones scène.

  22. I love everything you’re doing, Daniel. As a friend and fellow Manhattan Nest recently put it, you’re like the internet equivalent of This Old House. In fact, despite this sweltering heat, you actually make demo-ing look fun.

  23. HUGE improvement!

    (The Swan was/remains my favorite show on TV ever. I just watched in abject horror and utter amazement.)

  24. Looks great. I’m so excited about the vestibule wall coming down!!!
    There’s a UK show called Restoration Man that you might enjoy as well. Lots of conversions of unique and heritage listed buildings. And Grand designs, which I’ve mentioned before.
    Vestibule!!!

  25. That must have been so satisfying! I think you’ve shown remarkable restraint waiting until now! Hope you hung on to the timber – you never know when it might come in handy….

  26. Wow! Wow! Wow! I’m so happy for you that there was gold at the end of this task. I’ve been hungrily reading your renovation posts. *sigh* There’s simple no way we can afford to buy in my city. I would love to do what you get to do. (Feel free to repeat that sentence when you’re especially frustrated with your house.)

    I haven’t had cable in years, but the Internet provides me with ample access to crazy shows. I should check out Rehab Addict.

    How meta.

  27. Doesn’t Max realize that he has to put up with SOME house ADD? I believe in possibilities. That philosophy has worked in My Life. Give Nicole of Rehab Addict a call. Maybe she’ll come to consult and bring a film crew. Please try to get a sponsor, or be one of those people on the DIY Club. Miss Mustard Seed is one, and Pretty Handy Girl might be one. I’ll bet you could get people like readers to come to Rehab bootcamp at your house to help you. I would come if I wasn’t away for several months. All your readers are waiting for each new post with anticipation. More dog photos,please. Especially the white fluffy one. Ann

  28. PS. The wallpaper looking stuff is a painted design applied with a roller. Sort of like the rollers that you can buy for rolling wood grain. Please save some of the art deco linoleum in the closet and frame it.

  29. Your house is stunning, the difference with those disgusting walls down really shows how amazing it’s going to be.
    I don’t think I can get Rehab Addict here (stupid Australia), but I do throw a bit of fifth element in to our renovating ‘light Aziz’ no one else finds it amusing yet I keep at it.

  30. Amazing!!! you are turning that house into a home! I can’t wait to see more of your progress!
    I love Rehab Addict! Every time I see the opening for Rehab Addict I have to say that line “Ohhhhhmygawd! Why in the hell would you cover that up?! I JUST WANT BRICK.”

    • I know right… I JUST WANT BRICK! Then the music rocks out. Love it.

  31. HOLY MACKEREL….GORGEOUS!!!!! Who could have guessed that lovely curve would be there? Did you cry? I would have cried.

    I feel commenter Hannah above may be correct – that second floor hall closet could have been an addition at some point in the house’s history. Not at the same time as those horror show walls you just took down, but still – it does seem an odd-ish proportion and transition.

    One caveat as well – you absolutely must keep that first floor bathroom door shut. Nothing says unfortunate placement more than walking into someone’s home and seeing a straight shot view of their toilet….! Maybe I just have issues with any bathroom that offers a view of a toilet upon opening the door. It’s heathenish and gross. I also hate bathrooms that open directly onto a bedroom (why would I want to see my toilet my bed?) and closets that are accessible through the bathroom (a recent trend in stupidity, in my opinion)

    Yes, I know, we all poo, but that doesn’t mean we have to be reminded of it all the time!

    Anyway, kudos! (Is it weird and creepy to admit that because of your blog I’ve been trolling upstate real estate lately?)

  32. I’m unhealthily excited about the removal of these walls.

  33. Woa!

    Four things:
    1. Love masks like that (reminds me of my boy, Darth Vader).
    2. You also demo in boat shoes.
    3. I’m swooning over the detailed woodwork on the stairs.
    4. And finally…the last pic totally has a Jumanji vibe. It’s like dilapidated grandeur in the greatest possible way.

    Fin.

  34. Nothing like a demo to get the blood pumping! I’m getting a vicarious thrill. Nice detail on the side of the stairs (although I’m afraid your future could involve stripper and a toothbrush….) I’ll will be checking out Rehab Addict on Amazon Prime.

  35. It is almost 2 at night, and for some reason I’m not sleeping. So what to do? Check Manhattan Nest and see if Daniel has written a new post of course.
    You never disappoint! I think this is the best post so far in your house-buying-and-renovating-series.
    The turning of the stair is just beautiful!
    And all that light flowing through!
    Now I will sleep well. Thank you.

  36. Oh my god I’m so excited for you two! The spaces look SO MUCH BETTER. I mean, I knew they would, but to see it happening is so exciting and so fun. Sorry, I know that’s almost pointless to comment, but that’s how excited I am – I can’t help it. And I apparently can’t help saying excited multiple times… Ok done :)

  37. It is CRAZY how much better it looks without that wall. More light and totally feels like a grand old house now. Very excited for you guys.

  38. Amazing changes. Love it.

  39. The only thing better than seeing this house able to breathe again is Mekko and Linus photobombing all the pictures. L O V E.

  40. Demolicious! Rehab Addict, demo khakis, hot pink shirts, lazy dogs and salvaged banisters all in one post? LOVE.

  41. Sigh. I’m just so glad you bought this house.

  42. I love Rehab Addict!! I’ve been watching it from the beginning, and like you, stumbled upon it and figured it would be super lame, but it is not. IT IS AWESOME. Nicole is amazing, and I always end the show (which I watch on Saturday evenings like the loner I am) feeling sad for myself because I wish I had Nicole’s job. You described the show perfectly.

    My husband and I purchased a 100+ year old farmhouse 2 years ago & have been slllooowwlllyyy fixing it up. I’ve loved old homes since I was tiny because my favorite uncle owned one in Evanston, IL – which is the land of historic beauties, and this was a dream of mine…I am rambling and annoying myself. Sorry.

    But that is why I too, am obsessed with Rehab Addict. The End.

    looking forward to keeping up with your progress!

  43. I immediately thought of Nicole and Rehab Addict when you announced your new adventure! That show is awesome and definitely addicting.

    The time taken away from the kitchen to take down those walls was definitely worth it. Makes a huge difference and I bet it even helps make the upstairs seem more like the home you are working so hard to build. Exciting times!

  44. I exclaimed (out loud but to myself, mind you) at the first reveal, “but OMG it looks so much better”, then scrolled to your next paragraph, “but OMG, so much better…” So yeah, so much better! :)

  45. You never, ever disappoint & you’re performing an act of mercy on that once beautiful & again to be splendidly beautiful house. Love, love, love your blog!

  46. Shazam! It’s beautiful! Great job guys! This detour was soooo worth it! The house actually sighed. And I can’t wait to check out Rehab Addict on Hulu or Prime. Oh, thanks for the tip about the cable deal, too. Hope I can swing that one here on the West Coast!

  47. OMG YAY HOORAY!!!!!!! I’m so glad you did that so quickly – it really makes a crazy amount of difference in making your house look like a well-loved home. Also, I cannot get over the picture of Linus clambering over Mekko in his attempt to get down the stairs. Those two are just the best dogs ever.

  48. Wow! It looks like a house now! And I love Nicole! She is so sweet and down to earth, and she has such a love for old homes. So inspiring!

  49. Oooh yeah. So much less murdery.

  50. It’s so gorgeous! And you are so cute!

  51. OMG I LOVE Rehab Addict! So so good! Also, holy crap!!!! What a difference those walls being down make, as if anyone doubted they wouldn’t, but still, it’s just amazing when you actually see the pictures.

    PS. I always fall into the trap of thinking things will only take “x” amount of time, when in reality it always takes like 5 times longer. I especially do this with painting, which is odd considering all the painting I’ve done in the last 5 years, you’d think I’d have my estimates down to the minute.

  52. Oh, Daniel. Oh, wow. Now it’s a HOUSE. Whoa.

    So glad I now know you share my Nicole Curtis addiction. (So you demo in hot pink and khaki; so what? Embrace yo’self. Nicole demos in, well, blonde and always looks perfectly prepped; almost hating.) Although what do you mean there was no good bad TV for a while? What, pray tell, is the matter with a good Lifetime movie? Hrmph.

    Formerly TWC. Upgrade when we left BK for VT: Comcast. The BOMB.

  53. Looks amazing and so worth the little detour from the kitchen!!! I have to say though the real star of this post is Miss Mekko. Lookin all “I show up to pose only when it’s pretty enough for me to waste my time… Vogue” ;)

  54. Beautiful!

  55. I’m disappointed you don’t demo in heels, to be frank. I think you have to learn how to do that before you can get your own HGTV show.

    Also, looks awesome. Instantly way better, even despite the decrepitude. Side note: when you finish your house renovation in like 1/10th the amount of time I do, I am going to officially retire from life.

  56. Oh my gosh- what a change! It looks so amazing, I can now imagine you guys living there, taking out the walls makes it look so much more grand!

  57. Nicole Curtis moment = totally warranted. Why the hell would you cover up that banister!!? (Again, obviously we know why.) Good job rescuing it. It really makes the space feel like a home instead of a hodgepodge of rental space.

  58. This is freaking amazing. I am obsessed with Nicole Curtis too! And I love your khakis and hot pink shirts!!

    Seriously though, why the eff would you cover up those banisters?! LOVE!

  59. It looks fantastic, Daniel! The light in the house is really lovely, a very important aspect of any space.

    I agree that it looks like that wonderful banister would have gone all the way to the wall . . .

    I actually think the previous owners did a good conversion job – not only sympathetic to the house, but it meant they could continue to live there, keep the bills down, and make some money if the upstairs was rented out. Pretty clever, all in all.

    Lastly, I think it was a really good decision to take a diversion from the kitchen, because taking out the walls has been transformational, and therefore, motivational. Good move all round!

    • Did you actually inspect inside that closet next to the banister? Because it looks like it has been ‘encased’ by that plaster wall – you may find a completely INTACT rest-of-wonderful-banister cowering in that corner . . .

      Daniel, get that sledge hammer out! Or at least have a quick look – I’m dying to know now if that might be the case, aren’t you???

  60. I’m loving these posts on the new/old house. The way the light fills the house now that those walls are gone! Looks fabulous!

  61. You guys are my idols! I love your sense of adventure coupled with vision and hard work!

  62. That is some of the strangest wall framing I have ever seen. Love the house and the gorgeous little features everywhere, I’m so glad you two have the fortitude to do the renos right!

  63. WOW!! Amazing discovery there! Love!

  64. Get some workboots your crazy kids! A nail, staple, gnarly old shred of metal would totally puncture the sole of those boots shoes….and your foot.

    Take my word on this; I can’t tap dance to this day.

  65. PS….I should never type without my glasses on. Just saying.

  66. Amazing transformation! I am really enjoying the progress already. AND the dog photobombs are the BEST. love Mekko!!

  67. Man-Nest, how I do love thee. Your posts are more energizing than a mega-blast of B12.

    Mekko’s facial expressions always crack me up. There’s a hint of studied tolerance for The Humans activity. Linus, however, is completely non-judgmental. Either pooch would be equally happy to wallow with Their People in the Befores and they will to reside in the Afters.

  68. That turn in the staircase? Wow – just WOW!
    So pretty:)

  69. I got the BIGGEST thrill out of these pics! Kicks by proxy, if you will.
    I agree with earlier sentiments – there are people in every corner of the globe getting their thrills from watching this renovation. Keep those pics coming!

    And I think Mekko is turning into a camera slut – getting her sweet little face into most shots! It’s a talent my dog shares.

    Jane (rabbitsandbirds)

  70. Looks great! So excited for where this is headed.

  71. Wow, that is freakin’ GORGEOUS! The staircase details are amazing. I’m a cabinetmaker, so I have a very good idea of all the work that went into a staircase like this. The curved hand rails are gorgeous, and I especially love the spindles with the flat octagonal portions. Are you going to strip the painted parts, or just do touch-ups where there are paint spots on the wood, and repaint the already painted bits? It would be really nice to paint an accent coulour to highlight the scroll decorations on the ends of the steps.

    • Also, I think that the transom window to the bathroom (visible in the main staircase “after”) has been painted (over the glass).

  72. I simultaneously hate you and love you for introducing me to this show. Also, wow what a difference (taking away) a wall makes!

  73. You did all that in just three hours? Record time, I say! Everybody already said it, but I’m just gonna say it, too: it looks SO much better. Amazing!

    What are you going to do about the radiator, once you paint the walls? Can you take it outside and sandblast it or something?

    Keep those posts coming, please! I’m addicted to them.

  74. Daniel,

    Isn’t bringing a house on the brink back the most satisfying experience? We bought our dream dump four years ago. We did not have any renovation experience. Be prepared to learn a ton that you never expected. It’s a slow process. We had to upgrade all the systems (electrical, hvac, plumbing), pulled out walls, installed new baths, mini-reno’d the kitchen, the whole tamale. The first summer was amazing, we felt like we were reviving history and yes, we could feel the house start to breathe again. It was like she had been slowly decaying and when we got in there and started to peel back all the old layers of paneling and wallpaper, she started to get hope. Totally whackadoodle thinking, but that’s how it felt. Today, it is a wonderful, happy home that we joyously share with friends and family. It’s hardly done (my hands ache today from scrubbing paint off crystal doorknobs and painting doors and woodwork), but she’s definitely coming into her own. You and I have a different aesthetic, but I still appreciate your view, effort, and writing.

  75. Gorgeous! This house needed you to come along and give it some love! And that curve in the staircase is beautiful. As a fellow Rehab Addict addict, I’m so thrilled you could have your very own Nicole Curtis moment!

  76. Oh, man. So awesome, so awesome. The first time Scott and I saw Rehab Addict, we wouldn’t SHUT UP. All we talked about was how Nicole was a little, loveable bundle of muscle (sort of like a Pittie, don’t you think?), and she’s the best thing that happened to HGTV.

    And demo-ing in bright colors helps, I think.

    (We unearthed an adorable original archway during demo, and the first words out of our mouth: ‘Why the hell would anyone…’ well, you get the idea!)

  77. I, too, adore Nicole Curtis and the amazing restoration work she does!!! This is so awesome to see… VERY thankful they didn’t rip it all out first… I see that so many times & it always makes me want to cry. This place is going to be so incredibly badass when you are done with it (which we both know may not ever happen! wink, wink)

  78. Gorgeous! I’m so envious. We’re about to take down the stairwell wall between our unit and our tenant’s to create a common entry (apartment building-style), but I can almost guarantee just based on the wall thickness that whoever converted our duplex from a single-family home ripped out the original railing before they put the wall up. *sob*

  79. That’s nice about the previous owners not wrecking house details and built around them. They were thinking of the future!

    Awwww, to Mekko and Linus “helping”! :)

    I love Nicole too!
    And pink shirts during demo!

  80. in addition to nicole’s midwestern accent, she also demos in high heel boots #sassy

  81. Holy crap – that was an uber smart move to rip that crap out of there and open up the place so it feels like a real home. The banister looks great and the little curve, as you mentioned, is so very pretty! Glad you took a break from the kitchen reno to do this. It would have driven me crazy too! Kudos.
    J

  82. Looks great – I really do like your house! Well, you know what is next…yeah, you have to take down the entryway wall immediately. It will spur you on – going to be so good.

  83. Love the house and the size yard you have. I would cut out a section of each of the wallpapers and linoleum and frame them. That way you’d have something to remember from the “before” and get new wall coverings to boot!

  84. I know you have 100 comments saying this already but I LOVE REHAB ADDICT! (And also quote that exact line to the point of annoyance.) I am SO SO SO jealous that you’re demo-ing to find beautiful architecture while I’m just trying to dress up a 90’s subdivision house. Also when I show my husband pictures of your place I have to pre-empt it with, “These are the guys who own Mekko!” (Our boxer/bulldog is a big fan of hers.)

  85. Great. So, I read your post yesterday. And then last night I turned on the TV and guess what was on? Now I am the addict. And every time I see the intro, I think of you. I am loving the house updates…good luck and what fun! Keep the posts coming.

  86. Woohoo! I love demo and I am living vicariously SO MUCH now that you have achieve what is also my dream and bought this fixer. I live the difference losing those ugly walls has made! Even in disrepair, the spaces do look PRETTY now!

    And of course I am a huge addict of HGTV. I adore it, and Rehab Addict is one of my top shows. Nicole is amazeballs!! I wish they would run it more, with full seasons and in order. It was originally on the DIY channel, so HGTV doesn’t run it right. But I don’t have DIY. I will probably just try to download it all!!

  87. haha! when i first saw that covered-up banister in your house, i immediately thought of that scene from the opening of rehab addict. i’m also obsessed with nicole curtis and secretly desperately want to move to the midwest and buy a house in total disrepair.

  88. Just discovered your site and am loving it! I too love Nicole and actually saw her in my Minneapolis neighborhood the other day! I had to restrain myself from becoming all fan girl. I opted to just casually pass on by.

  89. Nicole is my absolute favorite!

    …But I just cancelled my cable :(

  90. I LOVE Nicole Curtis! And I’m so glad you do too. This show is perfect for you guys. And I forever more will say “Oh my God” in the Nicole Curtis way, it drives my boyfriend nuts.

  91. Rehab Addict is the only decor/reno/diy show I like watching these days. I love that she takes older homes and restores them inside of doing a generic builder grade open plan renovation.

    Your hallway and stair case looks so much prettier now. I grew up in Bungalows that just had a back stair case near the kitchen so open stair cases and banisters really impress me.

  92. Rehab Addict is pretty much all I watched for 4 months while I was unemployed. I am a homeowner trapped in a renter’s body. That’s also why I am addicted to this blog.

  93. So I have been reading your blog for about a year now and I love your style. I am in love with your beautiful-to-be house. It is going to be so gorgeous when you get done. I know it will take a long time but it is so fun to see. Thanks for sharing.

  94. Big fan of Rehab Addict as well. Honestly that woman has my dream job, at least I imagine it to be my dream job. It’s so great to see the stairs and railing uncovered, so much nicer than the before. I am with Nicole, why the hell would someone cover that up? We bought an old house too but unfortunately the previous owners ripped out the old balusters and handrail. So sad…Recently watching Rehab Addict motivated me to start stripping an old door but I have to admit I already resent the project but hopefully the result will be worth it. Also congrats to you and Max for buying your first house!

  95. the house can BREATHE now! gorgeous already!

  96. I was in the middle of watching Rehab Addict when I started reading this post. Great minds, eh?

  97. Oh my word! Talk about the find of the freaking century. We’re renovating our old house too- granted yours is in the shape ours was before the flipper foreclosed on it and we scooped it up so we don’t have AS much to do, but it’s stuff like this that makes me wish we had!!! That is sooo awesome!

  98. I think I just heard the angels sing.

    As in, my first reaction was to envision an intense, organ-heavy rendition of the Hallelujah chorus. Light! Flow! Non 2×4 wood! Glorious!

  99. I especially love that your canines were with you Every Step Of The Way.

  100. Another fan of Rehab Addict here. When I lived in St. Paul Bauer Bros. Salvage was one of my favorite places. It basically ruined salvage for me forever because I’ve never been anywhere since that has so much good stuff. The only problem with Rehab Addict is that HGTV abandons every show where the host doesn’t follow the dictates of knocking-out every wall to create an open floor plan, and putting in granite counter tops. The other day I had a fantasy that PBS could re-create it’s heyday of This Old House years (the 80s) with you at the helm. Nicole Curtis could join the programming to. It would be perfect. Dear PBS…

  101. Oh my lord, that looks incredible!!! Must make you so happy :)

  102. Thank you for restoring this house. There are two types of people in this world; those that cover everything with panelling and those that rip it off.

    My two cents as an engineer: I had the same style bannister in my first home’s 2nd floor (http://www.ourhomefromscratch.com/our-first-home/) sorry to link drop, btw. I ended up removing the entire banister and redoing it, but there’s a couple things I’ve noticed about yours that I think you should know since I had the same issues. Your banister doesn’t appear to have any posts on the upper floor, just spindles. Even if you try to reinforce it, it’s probably still going to be wobbly. So, you may want to remove a spindle in each corner (one near the top of the steps and one near the other turn) and add a post underneath it or something. You can probably use some sort of reclaimed wood or whatever to keep the same character and style, but it will be LOADS stronger if you do the post thing. My old bannister was a death trap and after I added a couple posts, I was literally able to paint the ceiling by standing on it.

    Good luck!

  103. Awww, you’re making it pretty again! Nicole Curtis ROCKS!

  104. Nicole Curtis shared this blog on her facebook page, today!

    Great job!

  105. Rock it out, my friend:)

  106. Love it!! Keep up the good work! Looks awesome, and how rewarding was that project? Jeeez!

  107. I too removed this kind of thing from my 1908 home. However, I soon had to rebuild something similar (but kept the lovely bannisters exposed) so that I could subdivide my house into 2 separate apts. I even added similar millwork, salvaged doors, huge baseboards, etc. to make it blend in. It’s the only way I can afford this big old house, and the on-going restorations over the years. Ironically, I am putting back much of the original layout that previous owners “opened up” and soon will remove those darn glass-block (!!!) windows in the basement. 1980’s is NOT sexy in an old dame house like this one. LONG LIVE well-built homes!! THANK YOU for sharing your process.

  108. Okay, this is AWESOME to see/read. I am looking at buying a 120-year-old duplex where the ENTIRE interior has been covered in 70s wood paneling…and I keep wondering to myself, “What the hell is under there?” It’s great to see an example!

    Incidentally, I have had fantasies about uncovering something great, like an architectural column between the living room and dining room (which I am almost positive is there, based on the wall shape/size), and then getting to imitate Nicole Curtis. You are living my Nicole-Curtis-quoting fantasy!!

  109. People from Michigan have an accent!!! Really? I have lived in Michigan all my life and have never heard that one.

    • Ha! Of course they do! I mean, everyone has an accent. Southern people have southern accents, people from the Midwest sound Midwestern!

  110. I adore Rehab Addict, and am so glad you found it! She is passionate about old houses, and does a wonderful job at restoring them. I can’t believe anyone would cover up that beautiful bannister. What a find! The house is beginning to look as it was meant to!

  111. Just saw your link from Nichole on FB… great job, keep up the good work.

  112. Can’t wait to start working on my 1910 gem. :)

  113. Fabulous improvement!!!!! Awesome to see the bannister, it adds so much character to the house. So many houses of that age were built with those beautiful, curving bannisters on the second floor. And absolutely makes the space feel more open!

  114. Now that is a great fine, a beautifully intact bannister. I love that you like Nicole as much as I do. I find her to be very inspiring. I was delighted that Nicole shared your blog on Facebook, so that I can enjoy it as much as she does. Happy Re-storing ! Jenny Lynn from Utah.

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