Celebratory Post-Kitchen Vestibule Demo!

This is how I do it with our poor, unsuspecting friends. They come to visit for a couple of days, maybe to get away from the crushing heat of a New York City summer, or the hustle and bustle, to a place where we can all drive from place to place and feel less like dying all the time. They think they’re going to have a nice time. Slow down a little. Relax with friends. That’s why I like to plant the seed early on——in Emily’s case, it was on our way back from the bus stop. “You know,” I explained, “remember that vestibule wall? The one right inside the door? I’ve been saving it for you.” It helped that Emily at least feigned excitement, which gave me the opportunity to really hype it up. We’d have so much fun demolishing it! It would be both catharsis and a work-out! Our home would thank all of us!

vestibulebefore2

While I deeply admire the energy it must have taken to erect this wall——a wood-paneled monstrosity the previous owners added in an effort to retrofit the house with a vestibule, thereby bisecting a perfectly good foyer——it was more than a little awkward and fell a tad short on the historical-accuracy front. I’m not really an old house purist, but this belonged on the Brady Bunch. And not, like, at the Brady’s house. I’m sure there was an episode in there when Marcia found herself alone and on the wrong side of the tracks, and that’s where I see this wall. Just hanging out in the 1970s with a very alone, very afraid Marcia Brady. She’s crying in this vision of mine, always.

This was the day after we finished the kitchen, and we’d spent the afternoon going to pick up everything we needed to cook a meal in the new space. Due to her Italian heritage and a highly developed talent for cooking, Emily is good at these things. She has a more refined palate for red wines than I do, but the bottle we chose was selected mainly for its low price and the size of the bottle, which Emily referred to as a “magnum.” The goal here was to enjoy the new kitchen, and the means to that end would be this enormous bottle of wine and a large Italian meal.

With both the meal and the wine consumed a few hours later, the night was still young. And Drunk Daniel got ideas. I put down my glass of wine and cleared my throat. “So. About that wall.”

“I’m so ready.” Emily refilled both of our glasses halfway, finishing off the bottle. “What do we need?”

I gathered the tools and we dove in with the same strategy I’ve been using on demolishing the other add-on walls in the house: remove components from the outside moving inward. Deconstruct it the way it was built. Less mess, less risk of damaging parts of the house that are important.

demo1

I even had the foresight to cover the windows with tape, lest in our drunkenness we were to shatter the glass. That’s one thing you have to know about me——I’m so smart, even when I’m an idiot.

Things started out great: we got both of the bottom windows out by removing several intricate layers of different sizes of finishing molding surrounding them,  and then started to pry off the paneling. The paneling, of course, was glued and nailed to a layer of 1/2″ plywood underneath, which was nailed into a very complicated and non-standard framing system underneath. I was more or less prepared for this wall to be as much of an asshole as the other walls had been, but I wasn’t super prepared for it to be even more of an asshole. Everything was hard. Nothing was coming down quickly or easily.

At some point the system fell apart a little when I grabbed my Sawzall and cut through the vertical sections between the door frame and the window (it seemed like it would help?), which I remember being interesting because the whole thing was just a solid block of many pieces of wood glued and nailed together. So beefy.

Shortly thereafter, while we continued to peel paneling and quarter-round and base-shoe off this wood-trimmed explosion, Emily stepped on a nail. She didn’t think much of it until about 30 seconds later, when she stepped on a second nail, this one penetrating the sole of her flip-flop and a somewhat significant portion of her foot.

Just to be clear, I’d told Emily multiple times that she should be wearing different shoes, even offering to let her borrow some of our shoes. She insisted that she’d been around this type of stuff before (she had) and that she wasn’t worried about it (she wasn’t) and that she’d be fine (false). Had I maybe not had a gallon of wine working its way through my system, I might have pressed the issue, but as it was I figured—hey, she’s an adult! Who am I to tell her what kind of shoes to wear while she demolishes walls in my home? What makes me some kind of authority on lady shoes, anyway, or footwear in general? I do almost everything in socks. Flip-flops are probably better than socks. She says she’s fine. I guess she’s fine! 

Like any good friend, I ran to my car to retrieve the first aid kit that’s been rattling around in my trunk since 2006. My mother bought it for me when I got my driver’s license (which is a very Jewish mother thing to do FYI) and I’ve kept it there ever since (which is a very Jewish child thing to do FYI), and I’ll admit to being a little excited about having the opportunity to finally use it. The alcohol sterile wipes were all dried up on account of being 7 years old, but she washed her feet off in the tub and slapped on a bandaid or two and took a seat on the couch. I sat next to her, emoting concern.

“Emily, I’m so, so sorry. My house is a hazard.”

“Are you kidding? I should have seen this coming. In a way, I’m glad it happened when I had been drinking. I’ve always been fucking terrified of stepping on a nail, but it happened, and I didn’t faint or vomit or anything, and it wasn’t even that bad. In-out. If I had been sober, I would not have been handling this.”

“That ‘s a positive way of looking at it.”

We sat there for a moment, reflecting on the hidden merits of alcohol.

“Do you want to take a turn with the pry bar?” I asked. “I think it’s easier than the crowbar.”

“I think I might have to just be done for the night.”

“Right, no, obviously. I mean, I wasn’t saying right now.” I did mean right now. I’m blaming the booze, but really, I’m naturally selfish this way. I assumed that Emily would feel fine putting a nail through her foot, taking a little breather, and just getting back to it. I mean, sure, you need your feet to stand up and all that, but demolition is really about arms and back. I didn’t see any nails there.  “Just, you know, if you ever want to, like, destroy anything again, I’m saying the pry bar might be more your speed. That’s all I was getting at. Definitely, tonight just chill out. I’m not a monster.”

And then I really took it to the next level of douchebaggery:

“Well, do you need anything? Because I kind of want to get back to work.”

What is wrong with me?? It’s a wonder I have any friends, or any people who are willing to talk to me or be around me or associate with me in any direct or indirect way.

“No, not at all,” Emily assured me. “I’m just going to sit on this couch for a while and try not to faint.”

“Cool, holler if you need anything.”

So there I left one of my best friends, possibly dying on my sofa, slowly bleeding through a hole in her foot caused both by my property and my ambition, while I made my way back to the power tools. I don’t really remember the rest of the night (I wasn’t that drunk, I promise. It just wasn’t that memorable), but I do remember waking up the next morning and going to inspect my handiwork and realizing that I forgot I’d left things like this.

demo2

Oh, Daniel. Really? In my excitement/inebriation, I may have put a little too much focus (all of it) on the bottom half of the wall that I could reach, and not enough focus (no focus at all) on the part of the wall that I would have needed a ladder for. This left things looking super stupid and super not-pro. Demolition fail.

max

Max, who missed every part of all of this, was not impressed by the changes.

I know all of this looks very precarious and like it should fall at any second, but I assure you: not only were the outer support studs still in place, but this whole thing was solid. There was no way that it was going to just fall. The construction on this wall is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, and I once saw a drunk girl in flip flops step on a nail in my foyer.

demo3

See? Insane construction. All of this took me several very long hours to remove, and not because I’m so careful and cautious. It was just really intense, like in a way that I can’t adequately explain in actual words. Just trust. It was the mother of all weird 1970s sobbing Marcia Brady walls.

viewfromdiningroom

BUT! BUT! BUT! LOOK AT THAT! OMG. OMG. OMG.

OK, so I know I say this every time, but…ceiling height like woah. Space like I didn’t know existed. LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT. House can breathe. It feels SO GOOD to have that awful piece of garbage gone.

I know a lot of people thought I should keep the wall, or paint it, or do something with it to allow it to stay since it’s probably a nice thing to have in the winter, but I hope this view explains why that just wasn’t an option. We’ll do what we can to weatherstrip the doors and keep things from being too drafty to the best of our abilities, but you guys. This house is just supposed to have an amazing entryway. It just is. And after like 40 years of not having an amazing entryway, this feels really, really good. I speak for myself, here, and I speak for the house. The house is happy about all this.

entryway-wall

Check out how long that wall is! You can see on the baseboard and the ceiling where the old wall was, and how it just cut up this amazing amount of space into two small spaces. Of course, now we’re left with a really arbitrarily placed light switch, but that’s OK. That little tiny sconce is the only light source in the entire hallway, so we’re going to have to have some work done in here to have a ceiling box put in for a chandelier and some other stuff. We’ll get to it when we can——right now, it’s OK.

Speaking of the walls——check out that plaster! My friend Nora came back for a couple days, and we started peeling off all the wallpaper that had already separated from the plaster. Some parts are more stuck than others, so we just left those alone for the time being. I borrowed a steamer from our wonderful neighbor last night, though, so fingers crossed that it works super well and I don’t have to mess with chemical strippers and other things that sound like a hassle. There are at least a few layers of wallpaper covered by many layers of paint, so it’s not really the same thing as, like, removing a cutesy little sheet of wallpaper somebody put up in the 80s. It’s really labor-intensive and will probably take a combination of methods to restore the walls, but it has to happen. Luckily we were given a little bit of a head start by the original adhesive being like 150 years old and freezing for two winters when the house was vacant. So…yay?

I know people feel really attached to that wallpaper, but it’s not going to happen. It’s all just in really bad condition, and not in a cool way. Just in a sad way. It’s going to be soooooooo beautiful when everything is fixed up and painted and everything, though. Nobody will actually miss it.

PROMISE.

Entryway-Floor

As for the floor, it’s OK. This floor probably hasn’t been refinished for AT LEAST 50 years or so (if ever?), so while you can definitely see where the vestibule wall used to sit, it isn’t SUPER obvious since the finish is continuous. The flooring in the entryway/hallway is in the best shape in the entire first floor, but the front room and dining room are both a mess. The flooring is all continuous, though, so I kind of think it just all needs to be redone. Anyone have experience refinishing floors? I’m considering DIY-ing it, but it’s also something I REALLY don’t want to mess up. As for finish, I’d love to just sand and seal the wood (no stain), but there might be some deeper water damage in the front room that would make that look really bad. This wood flooring isn’t original to the house (it was probably added around the turn of the century, maybe later) so I don’t feel SUPER precious about it. There are lots of cool things you can do with wood floors that don’t involve staining them medium-dark-brown.

before

entrywaywide

Anyway, I’m so psyched about this entryway space. I think it needs a nice big worn oriental rug (duh) and a nice bench and a nice chandelier and super pale gray walls with white molding and black doors! I know I mentioned stripping the front doors down to the wood and staining/sealing them a while ago, but I don’t think these doors were ever not painted, and I don’t think I’d love them enough for all the work to be worth it. I think I will love them painted black, though, so I’m pretty excited about that.

p.s.– thank you so much for all the amazingly kind comments about my kitchen last week! It was overwhelming! I do read everything, though, and I really appreciate it all so much. You guys are dope. 


191 Comments

  1. Looks great, but I’m mostly concerned about Emily getting tetanus. Did she ever get to a doctor? (Child of two physicians… I can’t help myself.)

    • Her tetanus shot was up to date and she’s healed now, don’t worry! We called her doctor the next day. :)

    • I was thinking the exact same thing.

    • Though I loved how your foyer looked afterward, as the mom of a physician & with many doc relatives, I was also worried about Emily’s foot. Glad she is doing OK.

    • This was precisely my worry! Glad she’s OK. Nice job on the foyer!

  2. It looks so good! If anyone says you should have kept that wall, they are crazy.

  3. Magnum of wine + sawzall. You crack me up.

    Foyer is amazing.

  4. So much better! Now I’m being the mom, but . . . is Emily up to date on her tetanus shots? http://littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com/2012/10/diy-wire-console-table-or-how-i-got.html

  5. Oh! I see that tetanus has already been addressed. Carry on then!

  6. I can’t believe anyone thought that wall should stay. Please continue to always follow your gut, because you are always right. Looks amazing! I can’t wait to see it all dolled up with fresh paint and lighting.

  7. I was waiting to hear about Emily getting lockjaw too. That would have made your abandonment of her that much funnier. (I am assuming her tetanus immunization is up to date?)
    AWESOME work. Your dedication and care shine through all you are doing to this lovely lady of a house. Honestly, I am following your blog like a crazed woman, checking it constantly! Thank you for sharing it with us!!!!

    • …and because your commenters are so rapid-fire (and rabid, like me), I can now rest knowing Ms. Emily is up to date on her tetanus shot!
      Ha ha, the things we all come up with! Brilliant.

  8. That shot of the top half of the wall made me laugh so hard that I had tears forming. Priceless!

  9. I would gladly volunteer a week of my life to come hang out and help demo/reno your house. I can’t cook very well, though I can bake!

  10. Personally I think the best part of working at someone else’s house – nails through flip flops notwithstanding – is that you can just do whatever part is the most fun and leave the boring/hard/finicky/finishing stuff for someone else! Like just doing all the demo and not cleaning it up. Or…chopping off the bottom half of a wall and leaving it to someone else to deal with the floating upper half. And then returning to triumphantly take credit for the amazing finished product!

  11. WOW. This is insane. I would freaking LOVE to see the place when you guys are done! Hit me up on the twitters ;) @jordanobinger

  12. This looks AMAZEBALLS.

    Seriously. Mad skills- even with just a touch of the tetnus.

  13. A million times better… totally opens up the space! And those doors are gorgeous!

  14. That looks SOoo much better!!! I swear the house can breathe now. The ghosts of the first owner are probably applauding!

  15. That wall needed to come down badly, and now it looks great! That area will be such a cozy little entry once you’ve painted and decorated it.

  16. Love the light. How is Emily’s foot?

  17. I love it! You’ll figure something out for the winter cold, don’t worry, This space looks amazing and you have such nice bones to work with. On the floor matter: I believe DIY is very possible, just as long as you go the extra mile to rent the right tools. You’ll definitely need two types of sander (the big monstrous machine and the small-hand size one), Don’t skip the small one!! :) (And if you ever choose to get rid of the ugly floor in the other rooms, have you considered just keeping the pine subfloor? We have this in our house and I could tell you more about it if it’s an option that interests you.)

    • Thanks, Julie! I think I understand the process of redoing the floors (i’ve been casually researching for months!), but I’m just so scared of it! And I don’t know exactly what I want to do with them once they’re sanded, so there’s that…haha.

      And yes, we’re DEFINITELY getting rid of the ugly floor (there’s only really one left, in that huge living room to the left when you walk in), and I think we’re planning to use the pine subfloor as long as it’s in good enough condition to be refinished. Maybe I’ll do a trial run refinishing that floor, although I know the process differs slightly when it’s pine and not a harder wood (I *think* the rest of our floors are oak? maple? I’m bad at wood…). Anyway, if you have any advice, I’m all ears!

  18. Hmmm. Now I’m wondering when the last time I had a tetanus shot was. Huh.

    I seriously cannot wait to see the entryway in person. The light is SO AMAZING.

  19. p.s. I bet you could do something with a super-dramatic, floor-to-ceiling, heavyweight velvet curtain that would look really good AND give you draft protection in the winter.

    • Exactly my thought to help with drafts.

      • Me too. The great thing about a super heavy curtain is you can take it down in summer and let the house breath while you bask in the light. (I have DIY-efficiency envy and flip flop empathy.)

    • Yes, we’re considering that!! I agree that it could be awesome.

    • This was my thought as well. Do that for winters; remove it in summers (or, you could put up weighted sheers/netting/lace to just keep the door open but keep the buggies out).

      My friend in the UK has a similarly aged house (in the country, too). She doesn’t need curtains for privacy at all, she’s so rural, but she does need them to open the windows and keep the bugs out or to keep out the winter when it’s winter.

  20. Personally I think you should frame the flip flop nail art in a little box frame in the hall as a constant reminder of your journey! Looks amazing !!

  21. Ha, you are hilarious! Love this post, love how the entryway looks now (SO MUCH BETTER!) and super excited to see how it’s all getting on. Good job, you. :D!

  22. Oooo, Max is giving you a look! Seriously though, I cannot imagine anyone suggesting you keep that wall. It was just so aggressively ugly. Your house is really coming along. I made my husband sit and look at all the pictures of your kitchen. Hahahaha. He was seriously impressed and wanted to know what it would take for you to come to our house!

  23. I’m surprised you guys didn’t tackle this when you took down the wood paneling walls in the upstairs area around the stairs.

    I really love what you’re doing to your house. It’s such an inspiration to me. I always love finding new ideas on the cheap to make a place you love a home– I think about it when I make changes to my tiny Brooklyn apartment.

    • We would have loved to, but we were just being pulled in so many different directions and really wanted to just get the kitchen done! Taking just this little wall down really took a LONG time and was spread out over a couple days, and was physically exhausting (I know, it looks small!), so I’m actually glad we broke it up. Trying to demo all the walls at once would have been madness!

      And thank you!!

      • Ah I see, and totally understandable. And it looks fantastic. I can’t believe all the weirdness the old owners put into such a beautiful home. You have let a ton of light into your home.

  24. I think all of your groupies would love to visit your house & help with demo’ing, but we would not all fit especially in that foyer.

    Am anxious to see that foyer all dressed up & ready for a party.

  25. I love how rewarding a project like that can be! It looks fantastic already.

  26. Have you given your house a name? Every grand place should, IMHO. And now with that wall removed-you can see more of her grander!

    Here in OR we live in the Peony Palace.
    ( Yes. Lots of peonies, all the same hot red, planted by the original owners in 1948.
    They are awesome).

    What that foyer will eventually look like is swoon-worthy. Love it!

  27. Looks so much better! Is the glass on the door frosted? I’m jealous of your transoms.

    • No, it’s clear. I’m considering switching it out with frosted, though, or maybe something textured but still historically OK. I don’t like little curtains, but I don’t super mind it being open, either. That might change down the line as we get more settled, though. :)

  28. Daniel, your entertainment value is priceless. SO kind of you to provide end-of-workweek guffaws for your fans. The space and light (and of course ceiling height) in the foyer are now fabulous, positively drooling potential.
    P.S. Glad to know that Emily’s OK. I finally got a tetanus booster and within 72 hrs had stepped on a large rusty nail–an evil sucker that reached my foot through lug-soled boots. Sometimes the universe looks out for enthusiastic rehabbers, drunk or sober. ;)

  29. you’re such a great writer. you crack me up!

  30. So glad Emily’s foot is okay — I think we’ve all been there in the old house renovation biz (and friends of). The foyer looks great, as always. Floor sanding and refinishing might be a good idea to have a company do. I’ve got big drafty entry doors and sewed some super heavy duty curtains to put over them and they make an enormous difference (also good for keeping out the burning rays of the sun in the summer).

  31. ha, i love your writing “I mean, sure, you need your feet to stand up and all that, but demolition is really about arms and back. I didn’t see any nails there.”

  32. The look on Max’s face? Priceless. I think the funniest part is that the floor and wall around the deconstruction zone were cleaned up beautifully and. then. you. look. up.

  33. Love your writing style,so brutally honest and entertaining!
    Getting rid of that wall was the only option, so glad you didn’t attempt to keep it there! I’m quite surprised that they had the foresight though to not cut into the base moulding when they built that monstrosity, I was so afraid that I’d see a giant chunk taken out of it, yay!
    Kudos!

    • Yes, we’re SO SO lucky with stuff like that. The people who added this stuff EITHER took the easy way out OR respected the house enough to know not to permanently damage anything. That’s one of the big reasons we bought it, really——having all the moldings and doors and banister and all that just waiting to be uncovered and beautified is a LOT easier (and cooler) than trying to work around missing parts and bring things back into the house that don’t really belong. Once everything is fixed up, you shouldn’t be able to tell there was ever a wall there!

  34. Eff anyone who said to keep that wall. It was gross and it had to die.

    I am so jealous of your high ceilings. Because our house was built in 1836 in (northern) New England, the ceilings are super, super low for heating help. It’s sad. Sean can touch them.

    I kind of wanted to keep the wallpaper we found once we started peeling away in our hallway (not the 80s wallpaper, the 1850s wallpaper) & kept thinking crazy things like WE CAN POUR RESIN OVER IT: http://www.verhext.com/before-after-upstairs-hallway – but in the end the plaster was pretty soggy. Is yours solid? I love the plastery texture on the side of the stairs in the photos here.

    If it makes Emily feel any better, a friend once nailed 3 of her fingers together with a nail gun? So ummm. Yeah.

    • WOW, that wallpaper is SO cool. But totally understand why it couldn’t stay. Our wallpaper kind of just peels off as one hard shell, so we don’t really have a good idea of what the layers underneath are like. We could probably figure it out by soaking chunks of it and seeing if the layers separate…

      Our plaster is almost all really solid! There are a couple areas where it isn’t great, but I think we can repair it rather than sheetrock or anything like that. The ceiling in here is drywall and it’s a DISASTER, though. I have no idea what we’re going to do about that.

      re: nail gun——OMG OMG OMG NOOOOO.

  35. WOW another FABULOUSNESS of Demo … glad Emily and her foot are ok !

    as others have said – the house can BREATHE … and i too imagine the first owner nodding with approval from the great beyond

    looking forward as always to the next exciting chapter in the life of this house!

  36. You’re very funny and tell a tale very well. I enjoy your writing as much as the projects and pictures. Awesome blog, dude.

  37. oooh pretty please do a new wallpaper in the new entry. so many cute options i can see them all in my head. b.e.a.utiful.
    also, i totally felt the house sigh in relief just by looking at the after pictures.

    • Maybe! The problem is that the walls are sooooooo long and continuous with the upstairs hallway, and I don’t really want to wallpaper ALL of it. I usually like wallpaper better when it’s either in very small spaces or confined to one wall in a larger space, you know? But I know what you mean…I always want to wallpaper everything!

  38. We used a random orbital sander that we rented from Home Depot in our house. It is a lot slower than a drum sander but a lot less scary. Also because the sander is square or rectangular in shape you can get very close to the edge of your floor – we just used a detail sander to finish the floors off. The results were amazing and it really wasn’t that hard to do.
    This Old House video has quite a bit of info but they are using the sander with 4 circular pads and I think the rectangular ones do a better job.
    http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20238933,00.html

  39. Why of course that wall had to go. It looks great! As for keeping warm in winter, our (old drafty) house doesn´t have a vestibule either. Around here, it is common to use heavy curtains in front of the door (inside, of course) to keep out the cold during winter. It works well and can actually look pretty. Also, we sanded all our floors ourselves. It´s easy! Just very tedious. You totally can do it!

    • Thanks, Katrin! Curtains are in the plan, I think!

      If you say I can do the floors myself…well, maybe I can! I just get nervous! It’s a huge job.

  40. I love the sun pouring in – makes me feel like Marcia Brady when Davy Jones kissed her cheek! Can’t wait to see the doors painted black – sounds awesome.

  41. I’m glad Emily didn’t get tetanus but also feel that ripping out that disgusto wall would have been worth it.

  42. Ooh, it looks so much better now! I’d keep the doors white but you do what feels best – I’m sure black doors will look good, too. :) I didn’t comment your kitchen earlier so I do it now: IT’S AWESOME, like making me seriously jealous! I live in a one-room apartment and though its floor plan is probably the best ever and there’s a spacious balcony, it kinda sucks to not have enough space to decorate and, you know, store stuff. Your blog is pure escapism for me. :)

  43. a friend of mine did to his floors what you’re contemplating.
    He sanded them down with a rented drum sander, and then
    used something called ‘monocoat’ on them: a no-voc coating
    made of flax that molecularly bonds with the wood.
    They look fabulous and have held up really well.
    The application was literally fool-proof. (I don’t know if he’d
    appreciate me saying that….)

    • I was going to suggest mono coat to you too. I think you’d like it because it has a matte finish. I’m also looking at the Magic Oil 2K finish. It is a hard wax oil finish, low voc and you can touch up the finish in high traffic area with out responding the floor. I used osmo polyx on my kitchen counters which is also a hard wax oil and I love it. It protects the wood but looks natural still. But the magic oil is lower voc and takes less time and coats to apply so I think it would be great for floors.

      Oh, and the entry looks fantastic. Oh, and I figured grey gardens was already pretty gay…just don’t start calling max mother dahling and wearing a revolutionary costume.

  44. That view is KILLER! And worth all the empty wine bottles, punctured feet, DIY weatherproofing and disapproving boyfriend looks in the world. You did good. But, you always do.

  45. I loved this entry – I cruelly laughed out loud throughout and didn’t feel even a little bit guilty about it. Glad Emily is OK and SO glad that wall is down. It was fug.

  46. A house isn’t a home until blessed with the blood of a good friend.
    Geez you remind me of myself, flinging power tools and paint around with abandon, such vision mixed with impatience that everyone better keep up or back off lol.
    So glad that wall is down, don’t you wish your body could instantly accomplish what your mind has in store for everything?! Just don’t work yourself up into another round of sick!

  47. Yes, HUGE improvement! I’m glad the wallpaper is going. I’m sure the doors will look awesome black and I don’t think the floors are that bad. A friend of mine had her pine floors refinished to “go” with her oak floors and it looked great. They had a transition piece at the doorway. It might be a good idea to hire someone to sand the floors, then you could stain and wax them. I’m not a big fan of painted floors though I’ve seen beautiful ones. Just not my first choice. I do like painted borders though. Daniel, it all looks beautiful! I LOVE your posts. I savor them. I make sure I’m all snuggled into my favorite chair, chihuahuas loaded on my lap, coffee in hand and enjoy! An even bigger bonus is when there’s a new post on Door Sixteen, too. Ok, get back to work. I’m already wanting more!

  48. I hope Emily was up-to-date with her tetanus booster! :) And wow – this house is starting to look so so so great. I would never have imagined such beauty was buried under those hideous 1970’s Marcia-Brady-sobbing-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks walls. (best line ever)

  49. whoever voted for that wall to stay is a straight up crazy person. it is 1,000x’s better. And for that matter… all your suggestions will be 1,000x’s better. excited to watch the magic happen!

  50. Seriously, you’ve got skillz and are the best story teller, like, ever. Also, glad your friend lived because that would have been sort of downer to read about. Whew. Loving the easy breezy look you’ve got going on here. Leaving that “wall” would have been a travesty.

  51. Whoa. So you already know your kitchen was like, the talk of the blogosphere (hate that I used the word) last week, but just, whoa. I found your blog from various other bloggers and I proceeded to avoid a few hours of work last Friday and then most of my last Saturday reading old posts. I love what you are doing in this home – I grew up not too far from Kingston, the town has seen it’s ups and downs over the years but it really is making a nice come back thanks to people like you who are taking the time to restore the old homes and bring some culture to the ‘hood. Also, I’m all like – see, husband, people leave Brooklyn and move upstate and LIKE it (husband is a native BK’er)- look at this guy giving this old house new life. Husband isn’t convinced yet, although he did really like your kitchen. I will now live vicariously through your renovation and enjoy every minute of it! If you ever need help taking down drunken walls (er, drunkenly taking down walls?), I would totally wear the appropriate shoes and help out.

  52. I think the morning after picture made me laugh the hardest i have ever laughed at a blog. thanks! it was awesome hahahaha

  53. So much light! That is going to be one beautiful entryway. Also, those floors look like they are in such good condition for the age of the house. I grew up in a 110+ year old farm house and our floors were treacherous. So many spinters in the feets. I’ve also had a few run ins with evil tacks that always land stabby side up, but I have avoided nails thus far. I feel for your friend.

  54. removing wallpaper is such a time suck. hate, hate, hate it. i’d rather die than to have to remove another layer of paper. it’s such a beast! so… have fun with that one + let me know if you find an easy way to do it. btw, i think you are so on track with your plans for this home. it’s such a beauty just waiting to happen. i think you were meant to have this home.

  55. I’d like to take a moment to dedicate the vestibule wallpaper removal to Mariah Carey and her inspiring tunes. Also, much of the painting in the kitchen. We couldn’t have done it without her.

    • You are so right. Thank you for making note of that. I’m actually ashamed I don’t think I’ve even mentioned Mariah in a post yet.

  56. Still the best story-telling blogger around. Glad your friend is ok – what doesn’t kill you at least gives you a good story to tell. Re your floors, definitely do a test run on your ‘ugly’ floors. Working the sanders can be incredibly hard, incredibly dusty, and can leave unforgiving marks (sometimes called ‘cigar marks’) on softer woods (I think your foyer floors are fir, or possibly heart pine). Practice, make sure you get the good tools from the rental place (i.e., shop around to find out who rents the best tools, not the cheapest tools), and be meticulous. Everything shows, especially if you do use any sort of stain. Good luck!

  57. Love the website Daniel! Keep up the great work. Not sure if you are aware, but about two weeks ago I noticed that the first search in google for manhattan nest that pops up is no longer your amazing awesome website, but your old wordpress link. Your new website isn’t visible via google unless going through the wordpress link.

    • Thank you, Randall! Yes, I’m aware of the google issue (thank you for telling me, though!), and we’re working toward fixing it!! The Internet is complicated, I’ll say that much. :)

  58. definitely the right choice to get rid of that wall..

  59. Do you have any idea what a gift you have for writing? It is so fun to read not only the progress you are making but the story you tell is book worthy. I can see in my mind what you are doing as you tell it and that is the mark of a great writer. Great job getting that wall out of there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  60. Whoa! Kick. Ass!!!

  61. Ha, the pictures of the half wall and Max are hilarious. Love your storytelling.

    My partner and I just refinished our floors actually! It’s hella loud using those sanders. We went to a hire shop instead of the hardware store to rent a drum sander, because it’d be in better condition and we could get one right away. Definitely make sure the drum sander has a lever that raises and lowers the sanding belt cylinder, you really don’t want to deal with awkwardly tipping back and lowering these heavy-ass machines. There’s the edging machines you can rent out too, but we used a quality random orbital sander and all was well.

    It’s a dusty, time-consuming process, and you can’t work on anything else in the house while you’re refinishing the floors, but you seem eager and obsessive enough to DIY it right. :)

  62. Amazing! And now you can definitely get Emily to come back — she’s bled on the place, she’s invested now. :)

  63. I am so excited about your house fix-up and wait with anticipation each time you post. Love what you did to your kitchen and the everything you are doing to the rest of the house. Cannot wait to see and hear more.

  64. Watching your progress on this house is awesome! I’m really enjoying every post! We had our front door dipped. We thought for sure we would repaint it afterwards but once we saw it naked we knew we had to stain it instead. Having it dipped was totally worth the cost, it saved SO much time and effort.There must have been 20 different layers of paint on there.Plus we got to nail plywood over the front door for a few days until it was done, that was classy!

  65. I am totally obsessed with your house, as well as the work you’ve been doing! My husband and I have a bit of experience refinishing hardwood floors (http://www.oldtownhome.com/2012/6/29/Creating-Our-Home-Office-Part-2-Repairing-and-Refinishing-Our-Wood-Floor/)…it’s not that difficult on the DIY spectrum. We also spent a year painstakingly restoring the vestibule (http://www.oldtownhome.com/2012/2/23/Vestibule-Project-Status-Complete/) in our 1880s Victorian outside of Washington, DC. The interior of our door is a high gloss black, and I love the look. I can’t wait to see how your entry shakes out – keep up the great work!

  66. About that half-peeled wallpaper just inside the door… such a shame it couldn’t be left as it is. I guess it looks worse in person, but in the picture is has such an air of elegant decay about it. I know that might not be the direction you are going with the house, but it just seems so full of stories.

  67. Finally got my fix from Manhattan Nest! I have been checking every couple of hours. t is 7.40am in Melbourne and I am reading your latest adventure with my morning coffee.

    The vestibule was an alien – it just didn’t belong there. I am so glad it is dead and buried. The hallwa looks amazing. Good luck removing the wallpaper. That is one of the most difficult jobs especially using a steamer above your head. I removed wallpaper that had been re-glued with liquid nails and the only thing that worked was paint stripper which also dissolved the cardboard and required doing s skim coat over the plaster before we could paint.

    No doubt you will overcome every obstacle! The house has been sleeping and is now slowly coming to life.

    Love your blog and love your work!

  68. I can’t believe people even suggested leaving that random wall… people do drugs I guess.

  69. Want to share my pain? My parents bought a home in Wyoming for eventual retirement, and to eventually fix the place up. Plans be damned, my husband and I spontaneously decided to move from Detroit to Wyoming and we now live in that home. The ceilings are, legit, 7′ high (my husband is 6’5″) and every (one more time, every) wall is covered in the same paneling as your beast wall. So. I mean, of course, I’m totally thankful we have a place to live, but ugh. Marcia and I can cry together.

    Add me to the list of people who over-checks for updates here. I love the progress, love that you have a Demolition tag.

  70. Die wall, die!

    I second the velvet for winter. It could be dusty gray. On a big-ass brass rod? With clunky brass rings?

    I helped sanding the floors in a number of friends’ places. It was no fun, the dust got everywhere, just everywhere. And the result was way worse than any I’ve seen a company do. But maybe we were just too lazy to do it properly. Anyway I vouched to never do it again. But you can pull it off! But if you have any kind of choice, budgetwise, get somebody to do it for you!

  71. If you are thinking of taking on refinishing the floors, I would recommend hiring someone to do the sanding (with a dust free sander – you know, the kind that sucks up the dust as they go), and then doing the actual finishing yourself. You need a lot of tools and equipment for the sanding, there’s painful handwork in the corners, and you go somewhat deaf for a while. It’s so worth paying a professional. But then you can get the finish just how you want. And you don’t have to be driving someone else crazy with 5% more Ebony, no 7% more Jacobean… Maybe that’s just me.

  72. Crazy drunken wizard!

    The hallway looks great! So much beautiful light! Good job!

    I’ll also put my vote to the big velvet curtain, but how about huge gold pom pom trim? And huge gold tassles, maybe an electric curtain opener. You could get a huge chandelier and some elegant faux columns. It’ll be a subtle look, really sensible and elegant, but you could make it work!

    But seriously, the curtain sounds like a nice idea if you do it right.

    One more thing; THAT SCONCE!! It’s so cute! First thing I noticed in the after photo!

    Great work, you should be proud, and safer next time.

    :-)

  73. I’ve refinished many floors and I second the orbital sander suggestion. The last one I used had just one rectangular sanding pad – easy to get the edges and corners. It is a little lighter than the drum sander (but not much) and it is much easier to handle. The drum sander is hard to hold back and if you don’t, it will skip across the floor and produce moguls. Also, take as little off as possible. If you are not going to stain, it isn’t necessary to get down to raw wood before varnishing/poly-ing/etc. Good luck!

  74. When you do, inevitably, have to use wallpaper stripper, DO NOT USE DIF. That stuff is shit. It does nothing, nor does the “gel” stay on the wall. It just sits there and makes a huge sticky mess. There’s this stuff called “POW Permeator” that is liquid and more expensive, but it’s concentrated and actually works.

    Also, as to the floors, we refinished our entire 3000 sqft house’s floors with the help of this http://www.u-sand.com/u-sand/orbital-sander.aspx sander. It’s super easy to use, it just has 4 6″ random orbital discs, so you just guide it around. Then we finished the floors with 100% organic tung oil from realmilkpaint.com. (yes, i know, milk paint, ew. but this stuff is the shiz) The floors look so FUCKING amazing, believe me.

  75. Aww Max’s face.

    • The Game of Clue: Manhattan-Nest.com version:

      “Max. In the foyer. With the yellow crowbar.”

  76. I’ve refinished floors myself with my roommate at one place and with my now ex-husband at another. It’s a lot of work, very dusty and very hard on your back. If you have damaged areas you can put new wood in there – I’m sure YouTube has videos on how to do it. You have to be be very careful not to gouge the wood floors with the sander. Watch videos on how to do it and have the people at the rental place go over each step with you. I never stained any of the floors I refinished. The old wood had a lovely patina even after the sanding. Medium dark brown stain is going to look so dated real soon. Plus, every single speck of dust and crumb shows on dark floors. Or you can save your back and hire someone to do it.

  77. Oh, I bet your house is doing a little happy dance. So much good, positive energy is flowing through your house. Can’t wait to see what you rip into next!

  78. I came here from Door Sixteen and I love what you’ve done to your house so far. It’s not entirely my personal taste because you’re twenty-something and I’m forty-something but I am amazed at what you’ve done.

    The reason I am posting is because I live in a house of similar age, except I am in Yorkshire, UK and I wanted to contribute to perhaps save you some hassle.

    Not sure the same applies in the US but I dearly wanted to strip my doors back to the wood back in the 90s and I found the wood was clearly never intended to be nice enough to be seen. The Victorians tended to paint wood in England so it wasn’t important what it looked like raw. That may or may not have applied in the US.

    Also I have found that using steam to strip wallpaper on old walls can be problematic. I’m pretty sure this will apply to all houses of a similar age and my advise would be to go easy on the length of time you hold the steamer up to the wall. I found that too much time equalled stripping the plaster as well as wallpaper and that really isn’t good. I’m not even talking about plaster that seemed ready to come off, this was seemingly solid plaster until I thought nothing of holding the steam plate against it for what seemed like a reasonable time to strip stubborn wallpaper.

    Heavy curtains such a velvet or tapestry would hold out lots of chilly air in the foyer without ruining the beauty of the house with ugly modern glazing.

    I can’t wait to see what you do to that gorgeous old house but please take care or yourself and your friends and take some advise from your mum who I’m sure expected you to keep that medical kit in tip top condition. ;-)

    • Thanks, Deborah! I think our house is the same way–I don’t think the wood moldings/doors were ever really unpainted. I prefer painted woodwork most of the time anyway, so I’m happy with it! The only doors I considered trying to strip/stain are the front doors, but I don’t think I want that anymore. Too much work, not really appropriate to the house! Everything does need a fresh coat of paint, though.

  79. ok, first off, love love love your blog. second, i have a burning question: is the house knob and tube? if so, are you going to change it? discuss :)

    • Thank you! A *burning* question, haha!! Luckily, we don’t have any knob and tube (at least none that we, the realtor, our home inspector, or electrician are aware of!). Our wiring was installed and altered several times over the years, but the majority is modern-ish Romex and almost all the rest runs through BX cable and is probably cloth-covered…not really modern, but not considered immediately unsafe. We plan to run new wiring as we work on each room and perform some upgrades to the electrical system overall, like increasing the service to the house and switching to a single electrical panel, as currently we’re on separate panels for the upstairs and the downstairs.

      • i was hoping you would catch the brilliant humour :). glad that you don’t have knob and tube–you must have been very happy to hear that from the electrician/inspector/etc! can’t wait to hear all about your next project…how about a bathroom? i’m trying to get the nerve to tackle our 1960s/1980s bathroom gut job…

  80. I’m still recovering from your amazing kitchen reveal, and now this? I feel like a total slug.

  81. What? Who are these people that wanted you to keep that wall?
    It looks SO much better with it down – you really have a lovely foyer, even in it’s early stages. Can’t wait to see it done!

  82. Thumbs up!

    How many months of great blog posts are in this house project do you think? Its going to be a great winter watching the progress.

    :)

  83. Daniel. You are awesome. I totally want to be your friend haha.
    This demo turned out stellar. That random wall made the entry feel heavy, but it totally feels like and airy now. Love it. Keep it up man!

  84. That wall definitely had to come down. What a beautiful foyer. I don’t think you’ll miss the vestibule at all, no matter what the weather’s like. You’re lucky that the wall was just plopped on top of the floors. That will make refinishing so much easier. We refinished floors ourselves in our last house, and honestly it’s not something I’d DIY again. It’s an unpleasant job, and the floors weren’t as smooth and the finish wasn’t as even as we wanted them to be. This is a time for professional help IMO.

  85. Wow! It just looks amazing. Glad your friend is ok. By the way you might consider my low tech solution for winter cold. I live in an old craftsman and it can get a bit drafty by the front door in winter. I put up a big full length curtain there in the winter. It is heavy beige cotton & is easily pulled back in the daytime or if someone comes to the door. My preference would be for heavy cream velvet or velour but had the heavy canvas and it doesn’t look too horrible when up and can be easily removed in good weather.

  86. THAT WALL. I can’t even… no words for it. So beefy.

  87. Get out of my head!! We’ve just picked the perfect pale gray for our entry, and we know we’re panting the doors black. Can’t wait to see how yours turns out!

  88. Who the heck wanted you to keep that scary wall? Looking at those “before pictures” brought back weird memories … My high school Spanish class somehow ended up singing Christmas carols at McNeil Island Penitentiary. (Not sure how my parents ended up signing THAT permission slip.) To enter the prison, we had to pass through a claustrophobic litte security checkpoint with oddly placed windows. All your weird wall needed was armed guards and a couple German Shepherds! It also reminded me of going through Checkpoint Charlie to enter East Berlin, way back when. Again, tiny, ugly spaces, weird windows and knowing that you’re being watched by humorless guys with guns. Is keeping out the cold winter air really worth it?

    So happy to see the after pictures! Make your crew wear real shoes from now on, OK?

  89. Glory hallelujah! Gorgeousness.
    I can’t believe the floor is in such great shape. Looking forward to seeing the post-wallpaper version. Also, what is up with those pipes?

    • Thanks! Those pipes are the supply/return pipes for the radiator in the upstairs “nursery,” which is right above the entryway! All of the heating pipes for upstairs radiators are exposed in the house, I think because they aren’t original and were added later on.

      • And they even wallpapered the pipes – or is that sponge painting?

      • It’s actually ALL painted. Probably done with a patterned roller. The layers of wallpaper are underneath the layers of paint.

  90. I so want to be happy for you, but every update you post just makes me hate you that bit more for having the world’s most amazing house!

    Please can we just be friends? I get my best DIYing done after a bottle of wine and I don’t know the meaning of the phrase, “maybe you should wait until tomorrow before starting that”. All I ask in return in to just come and walk around your house a little bit, maybe pet the doors and radiators.

  91. Hey Daniel I really enjoy reading your blog been doing it for a number of years. Very glad to see your skills put to the test on this new amazing space. Very jealous! The Kitchen redo is so great and of course the wall had to come down!!! no doubt about it. I just wanted to let you know about redoing the floors that one you can totally do it, not hard just tedious,and two you should probably slow your role and do them last. Floors are usually done last in a demo. I know the force is strong within you to dig into them but you don’t want to have these new amazing floors and then have to demo and paint or plaster around them. Just saying…Keep the post coming can’t wait to see whats next.

  92. In my opinion that ridiculous portico wall absolutely had to come down. I couldn’t believe that you write someone suggested it should stay. I’m glad you’re respecting the integrity of the house. I just had to replace (not refinish) 100yr old Craftsman fir floors which are actually one huge continuous floor over the whole main floor of the house. Whew, what a job. And loads of headaches and mistakes and heartaches. I hope you get to keep your floors. Mine didn’t have enough surface left to sand down and refinish. Loads to be careful about before you start and during the process. I chronicled some of it in June on my blog but would be very happy to let you know some of the major pit falls. (Never having done anything like this before and learning from mistakes, as you do) By the way, I put a nail thru my flip flops and straight thru my foot too and now I have a cute scar on the top of my foot to talk about, and we have thick curtains in the cottage in England, (stone cottage, really cold in the winter), and they work wonderfully well at insulating.

  93. It looks so amazing! I definitely would have wanted to rip that thing down from the get-go. I feel your pain for hideous panelling, both of our kitchens were covered in it. We pulled it down in the kitchen we use and painstakingly scraped three layers of linoleum glue off the floors by hand and it is getting there. Unfortunately the other room is just pure shit. We removed some of the panelling to find crumbling drywall that was never even taped or muddled, and it’s just a huge hot mess.
    At some point most of the original trim was ripped out and replaced with tiny stuff and everything (vintage 5 panel doors included) was painted baby poop brown. Every time I come here it’s a breath of fresh air.
    I was really afraid of refinishing floors too. We went to home depot and rented a drum sander and were given a belt sander to do the edges near the baseboards. The floor had a painted border all around and it took a day to sand it all, but it looks great! I can’t fathom why I was so worried. Whatever you do, just don’t paint it, what a fucking nightmare it was to sand all that paint down!

  94. You are so funny, and of course you are right, that wall had to go. Love the unimpressed Max photo.

  95. Vous ètes Attila. Bravo pour votre travail beaucoup de goût & d’idées. Une admiratrice de France (je suis près de Paris)

    • Rough Translation: You are Attila (meaning the Hun?). Congratulations for your work taste & ideas. An admirer from France (near Paris I)

  96. Gorgeous! Yes, I hear the house sighing with relief. You’ll definitely have a special place in House-Heaven, Daniel!

    I have been DIYing for *ahem* years. Now when I ask a friend over, they say, uhno what are you demoing? And they laugh at me when they ask what I did over the weekend (uh dug out a tree stump, what did you do?). LOL Good Luck, and can’t wait for the next post!

  97. Thanks for taking so many detailed shots of that wall. I just can’t get over how badly, yet solidly it was built!

  98. oh my… you are brutal to Emily! Such a good thing you didn’t try to get up on a ladder to demo the upper portion, Max’s unimpressed look is priceless :)

    I hope the house is thanking you appropriately for all the work you are doing to make it whole again. The entrance is 1000x better looking already!

  99. Will all those who were in favor of letting that abomination of a wall stay, please stand up? Never, ever do any home renovating or decorating. Please!

  100. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. The floors are gorgeous

  101. I LOVE your posts. Your foyer looks much better with that wall removed. (Perhaps it is just the way the light reflects off them, but I think your foyer floors look quite good. That said, “Rehab Addict” makes sanding and staining floors look pretty straight forward.)

    I look forward to your posts. Keep ’em coming.

  102. Just wiped away the tears I laughed (sorry Emily!). It will be soooo fabulous. The funky wallpaper/paint reminds me of my apartment in Munich where I stripped up to 10 layers of paint and paper off the walls and discovered Art Nouveau stencils underneath, different in every room! Unfortunately it was in crap condition generally, but I left some “peepholes” where it was good by doing a bit of trompe l’oeil painting – as if some plaster had fallen off to expose the layer beneath. Then when a large chunk of plaster came off at the bottom of a corner in the hall, I got some tiny construction machinery toys (bulldozer, dumptruck, buckloader) and set them up to work away forever. I would always find them rearranged whenever people were over.

  103. Hey! I was wondering how you were supposed to get to the porch (I figured that you probably left the door out in your floorplan) bit there it is. And my my what an amazing difference that makes! Good for you.

  104. Someone once upon a time DIY’d refinishing the floors in our house, and they look awful. They have ripples all over, and not in a “ooh, character!” kinda way. More in a “ohh, someone f*cked that up” kinda way. There’s not a lot we can do about it if we want to keep the original wood floors (which we do). Might be a time to call in the professionals.

  105. so very very very lovely…! As someone who loses steam in projects, I would probably live with that upper wall portion looming over my head for a few weeks before my ADD circled back around to it!

    I wonder though, if between the radiator in the hall, the pipes to the “nursery” and all the other radiators if there may actually be enough heat despite any drafts?

    In previous NY apartments I’ve had, there’s been no radiator in the bathroom, just a big pipe that gets super hot….Of course, I’m not paying monthly for the oil to heat the water that goes through the radiators, so I can’t really judge whether cranking the heat would be advisable. Or if it would need to be cranked. Or how hot water heaters and radiators and boilers even really work and what it costs to run them. Darn all that care free apartment living!!

    I also might adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude before planning on curtains. Though they wouldn’t necessarily be that much of a design distraction (assuming they would be mounted tight against the front door wall), I think the heat loss in the foyer might come more from the door to the side porch, the doorways into the other rooms, and sinking down from the upstairs, no?

    Before shelling out the big bucks for a trillion yards of velvet and hanging a trillion yards of velvet, I would suggest doing a bit of draft sleuthing as the weather turns. Perhaps all that may be needed is some well concealed weather stripping around the front and porch doors? Stopping any drafts where they start might be more effective than trying to insulate with curtains.

  106. Daniel, I cannot believe how fantastic the foyer looks. Your description of what you might do in there is great, I would LOVE to see that. I have a lot of respect for how much work you and your noble friends are putting in!

    Go Team New House Go!

  107. Hi! i followed the Link to your blog from Makingitlovely and OMG! i’ve read almost all of it in just one week (yeah, i have nothing else to do…) congratulations! your kitchen is awesome! it makes me want to buy an old house and renovate it. I’m so looking forward to read about all your projects!

  108. Daniel, all this talk of hanging velvet curtains to keep winter drafts out made me look at the after photos again to see where they might go. I noticed, for the first time, that you have a radiator in the hall. It’s next to the staircase, not by the front door, but if it works, heat will rise up to second floor, too. The hallway may not feel toasty in winter, but it should be warm enough that you won’t need to wear your wool coats at home, complete with hats, scarves and gloves, like Bob Cratchit.

  109. I love the order of things. Kitchen first. That just seemed so right and now you can have your meals in a space that’s adorable and done. On to the entry. Just the best demo. What a difference a day or two makes.
    Wood floors tidbit. Once upon a time, I lived in an old house and the wood floors were shabby looking. They didn’t seem to have many coats of finish and were just dry and worn looking. Rather than redo them, I used Scotts Liquid Gold and a buffer. They turned out great. Really great. All I had to do was touch up from time to time and buff.

  110. “I think it needs a nice big worn oriental rug (duh) and a nice bench and a nice chandelier and super pale gray walls with white molding and black doors!” – YES. YESYESYESYESYES.

    Have you seen photos of Jenna Lyons’ Brooklyn townhouse? If not, google immediately. Moldings like you wouldn’t believe, amazing arched black front door, black walls in the bedroom, a dressing room that makes me weep, etc. But point is, your home will be THAT breathtaking. And MORE.

  111. I really love what you have done here – what a lovely entrance!

    I had my floors done professionally (I was worried about how I would deal with the dust – I didn’t want to varnish dust!) – it cost about the same as mid range carpet and is so much more in keeping with a period home. Just pulling up the truly revolting carpet and cleaning all the crap that had been tacked around the skirting boards was enough for me! All the nails need to be punched down and major imperfections filled, then sanded and finished with two coats (we used a clear finish – the boards, which had been covered for at least 60 years were amazing baltic pine and so gorgeous).

    It was a very big job but so worth paying someone to do it – they were so expert (we had a great recommendation) and did it all so quickly and expertly. We were able to walk on it (in socks) 24 hours later and the floors became such a feature. The floors kept me going during a very big reno. You don’t have to do them all at once. Maybe get one area done professionally then you can see what’s involved.

  112. Hi,

    1. Remove wax
    2. Sand paper
    3. Paint with a soft brush 2 layers of natural wax (black: hue Eebenpuu or Noki) in Osmo color semi-transparent natural wax. Each dry 24h.
    4. Finish with a thick layer or Osno transparent finish satin matte wax.

    Super beautiful, soft to the foot and good for your health!
    I just did mine, check out the blog. Sorry for messy renovation iphotos.

  113. Looks great, I can’t believe that there were people trying to tell you to keep it! If the cold really becomes a big problem, you still could build a beautiful new vestibule, perhaps using victorian materials (in the art noveau apartment where I grew up my father had designed a big door to the kitchen using old art nouveau stained glass he found, the door looks not only fantastic but also like it has always been there), but this thing was horrible and had to go!
    So excited to see what you tackle next!

  114. There have been more than a few times where I have had a few drinks and then went woodcraft crazy – one of my dressers got refinished that way. (Also, This was a real conversation between two friends of mine during a project I was involved it: “Hey man, are you drunk enough to operate the power saw?” “I dunno, let me crack open another forty and I’ll tell you.”)

    Seriously guys, be careful out there. Drink and Demo responsibly! I am glad Emily’s foot is ok.

  115. As so many others have said already, it’s incredible that anyone in his/her right mind would advise keeping that vestibule divider (likewise for the wallpaper). Your results, as always, look super, and thumbs up to the grey walls and black door. I’m not feeling the curtain/draft protection thing at all — it doesn’t seem like your style. Natural light is too important — we uncovered the large sidelights flanking our front door and it hasn’t made us feel “overexposed”.

    I agree with poster Kati that your entry floors look like fir or heart pine — it looks just like the old wood floors upstairs in my house and they’re definitely a softwood. Downstairs we have white oak which doesn’t really look like your floor; and it doesn’t look like maple either.

    Since our floors probably wouldn’t take another refinishing (threat of hitting “tongue” and flooring nails) we wanted something super-long lasting — and it is anything but low VOC. It’s a finish that’s used on gym floors and wow has it held up well. Even if you decide to go DIY on the floors (and I would only do this if a pro job is unaffordable; all due respect to your and other DIYers talents but a good pro finisher is the best bet for minimizing floor damage and cleanup hassle) consult a few top-rated finishers to learn what kind of wood you’re working with. You live in a place with a lot of old houses so there should be some tradespeople there with extensive experience with old house floors. And definitely forego the staining; I’m so glad we went natural!

  116. Hi Daniel,
    I’ve never left a comment but I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years. Love it. I think this was totally the right move, it will look great, and already looks better.
    I think you could do the floors one day, although they don’t look too bad in the pictures. I did my own, I rented a drum sander and an edger. Its a workout. Then clear coated them with polyurethane. It was messy, dust everywhere so i’d do them all at the same time and wear a mask.
    Looking forward to your next post.
    Doris

  117. Steaming isn’t great for plaster walls. IMHO, cross hatch scoring the paper with a 5-in-1 tool on the diagonal, then spraying with fine mist hot water and letting it sit for 4 or 5 minutes. Then scrape with a scraper tool. I took down 5-7 layers in every room at the Domus (with paint in between) this way.

    The vestibule looks amazing! I’m so glad you took down that monstrosity (nail through the foot not withstanding). I can’t imagine anyone suggesting it stay up.

    We are in the final stages of renovation here at the Domus…or at least the biggest jobs. There will be a kitchen redo down the line (5-10 years at least) and a bathroom reno, but the major work is winding down at last. There will be a million little jobs (like stripping paint off fixtures and fittings) for a while. It’s been about 4 years now.

    Redoing this house has been immensely satisfying work. I totally get the idea that the house is feeling and sighing with happiness because it is being cared for and not neglected. My house feels so much happier to me…projection? perhaps.

  118. EFFING BRILLIANT/HILARIOUS.

  119. wow, I have been waiting for this – it just looks sooo much better, what a wonderful change! As for drafts, yes…there will indeed be drafts. I’d rather have drafts any day than that horrible wall. I have seen curtains, hung from ceiling to floor, usually left open except when very cold – it actually looked very good, modern, not stodgy – might be a good idea at some point since heating cost is so expensive for a big old house. As for the floors…please do not try to tackle a full on sanding – only for the pros and really it is not needed generally. You can do a screening – you rent a big sander but use these screens instead of sand paper and it knocks off all the bits of old junk but leaves the floor and patina intact. Then use a good cleaner like TSP, and put a protective coat of something on it. Your floors look pretty darn good not much needed really. Great fun to watch your progress with this big old great house!

  120. The entrance and hallway already look transformed – the pictures made me laugh!

    Flip flops, red wine and power tools are a dangerous combination . . . but they got the job done, and all’s well that ends well.

    I really like your ideas Daniel – are you considering painting only three quarters of the wall height in grey, then painting the rest and the ceiling white to further emphasise the height? Or you could paint walls and ceiling all over grey – that would also look good. And the doors painted black will be really great – already tried and tested, so why not continue to use something that works so well.

    I like the idea of the curtain suggested by your friend, Anna – I think black velvet would look really stunning, with perhaps a vintage brass curtain rail. You could line the curtain with felted wool to make it really draught-proof.

    You could also ‘test’ the frosted glass by using some temporary plastic like you did in your first apartment on the doors – then you will see how it really is to live with that look. I personally like the clear glass.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing what you do next!

  121. Hilarious Daniel, I agree with Tamisha on the method to removing wallpaper from plaster walls. We used this exact method on our 1846 farmhouse. It worked. Grueling horrible task but it worked.

  122. Thought I’d share in case you’re keeping score on pro vs diy floor refinishing: hire it out. I renovated three houses, and this is the one thing I’d always hire out. Never regretted it. It’s not that expensive, you will not do it right yourself, and it will show. The dust is as bad as everyone says, and you will get air bubbles in the finish, which may somewhat detract from the accidental sander gouges.

    My current house is 103 years old, previously a rental; the finish on the upstairs floors had completely worn off and they looked unsalvageable. A good sanding and two coats of poly later (no stain), they are now my favorite thing in the house.

    • Daniel, I agree with all the folk who say hire someone to do the sanding. I only did one sanding job, one room (albeit sanding paint off the floor) and it was never-ending.

      You are doing – and will do – so much of this house renovation yourself (along with your trusty crew of helpers) that I think there are two major jobs you can hire out: the floor sanding, and the removal of the tarmac in the yard.

      It will be money well spent, I’m sure of it!

  123. I’m thinking that entryway may haven been reason enough to purchase the house. I love the view from the hall where I can see the stairs with that beautiful newel post, the double doors and all that light pouring in from the transom.

    I think it’s beautiful now… but it’s going to be stupendous when it’s all restored.

  124. Who ever suggested you leave that crazy wall in there must be drunk. And you should never do what drunk people suggest (hmmm). It looks amazing opened up!

    We are currently reno’ing an old house too and my mom (I do not have the patience for wall paper) used a heat gun to scrape the wallpaper off in the entry way, after peeling off the parts that were falling. Unfortunately, the parts of the wall paper that were still attached, were attached to giant horrible patch jobs (I swear they patched it with concrete). Long story short, drywall is going up. You win some you lose some…but man, you are def winning on your house! Thoroughly enjoy each post you write! :)

  125. Daniel,

    Your pictures are rebukes to the doubts I had at the beginning of your project. I wondered why one would tile a kitchen that was only temporary and now see that your time and a modest monetary investment for the tile project are what has kept your kitchen from looking temporary. I did not wonder why you would tear down the vestibule. It was an eyesore and you are well rid of it. The little sconce is something that I had overlooked in all the before photos. It is charming. Is it marigold carnival glass or maybe, if you are really lucky, Stueben Aurene? Will you be keeping it or will you be replacing it with something more modern.
    It’s exciting to see what lovely progress you are making. Looking forward to your next update.

    Regards,
    Elizabeth

  126. A nail through an extremity is the calling card of every great DIYer. It happens.

    Your house is sweet. That vestibule looks incredible with the wall down.

  127. I love your foyer almost as much as I enjoy reading your writing about it!

  128. Wow. Amazing! That foyer is beautiful! You did good. And, yes, that wallpaper has GOT to go. I’ve taken wallpaper off that old from plaster and it seriously sucks so I feel your (future) pain. I like the floor, though. I really miss living in an old house with hardwood floors so I’m biased. But I think that’s the last thing to worry about. Esp if you put down a rug. God. All that LIGHT! Love it.

  129. Good riddance to that monstrosity! The new (old) door looks so much better and the light it allows will make you happy for many years to come. Congrats for finishing the job … and for having a friend who will still talk to you after almost losing a foot in the process.

  130. Fantastic! So glad that you took the fake-y bolted up wall down. Foyer looks fab. And I’m all about the light, bright and airy. Like the heavy curtain idea for your winters, too. As for floors, I had a professional do mine. It was worth it. And left me the energy and time to get to the next project. Glad to hear Emily is up to date on the shot and you called the doctor. I say this as someone who has stepped on nails twice. Had tennis shoes on and not flip flops but they went right through anyway. Looking forward to the next post! Your house is coming along beautifully!

  131. Refinishing wood floors is easy, but takes sooo much time (took me about a week start to finish for a 2000 sq ft house)
    if you want to do it rent a vibrating floor sander from home depot, DO NOT USE A DRUM SANDER! Start with 20 grit paper then work you way up to I think 120 remove all of the floor sealer and sweep between grits. once you have all of the scratches out and the finish is removed use either an oil or water based polyurethane finish, you’ll want satin or every little scratch will show. water based dries quicker, but is less durable oil takes 24-72 hours to dry, and is more durable, but has stronger fumes while drying.

    A final tip, never use mop and glow or any other wax based floor cleaners, if you do then you cant repair or recoat the floor without totally refinishing the floor

    • I would actually give the opposite advice. :) I initially rented a vibrating sander (the type I rented was called a square buff sander) to do my floors. I spent an entire day — hours and hours of time — sanding my floors in three rooms, only to start the edge sanding and find that the square buff vibrating sander had only removed about half of the original finish. I was so incredibly frustrated at the loss of time, as well as the wasted money on renting that piece of junk.

      I returned the next day and rented the drum sander, and couldn’t have been happier. That thing tore right through that hard old finish like a pro. I started with 20-grit, then 36-grit, 80-grit, and ended with 100-grit. My floors turned out gorgeous.

      Perhaps it’s all about the type of wood. If you have soft wood floors, like pine, perhaps the vibrating sanders are fine. If you have hard wood floors, like my oak floors, I’d recommend a drum sander. They take a little practice, but they’re not difficult to use, and will do the job in a fraction of the time.

      Also, I finished my floors with Waterlox. It’s a tung oil based finish, so spot refinishing is possible if you get a scratch or stain. Just sand out that area, apply new Waterlox, and it’ll blend right in with the rest of the floor (IF you don’t use stain, and just use the Waterlox by itself).

  132. “We’ll do what we can to weatherstrip the doors”

    OR you could hang a really heavy curtain made of some posh material that would cover the whole front door wall, like in Hildy’s apartment in On the Town.

    Not that I have plans to do this myself or anything.

    • Also I could read the comments before suggesting a curtain AGAIN. ;p

  133. It looks like you could rest easy once it was down. Looks like a lot of fun actually demolishing it.

  134. That was the ugliest wall ever built! Your foyer already looks amazing without it – cant wait to see the final look with the wallpaper gone. I love wallpaper though – a simple stipe could be really nice

  135. It looks AMAZING! Plus your writing is hysterical! I wish you’d move to Western Australia and help us renovate our new (old, old) house? I feel like it would be so much more fun with your running commentary…Western Australia is quite nice, you know.

  136. a. phew! i’m glad to hear emily is up to date on her tetanus shot.
    b. THE ENTRY LOOKS AMAZING!!!!!

  137. This entry way looks amazing now! I love all that natural light and endless crown molding. Can’t wait to see more progress posts!

  138. It’s just…glorious!

    When you’re done with your place, fancy coming to Helsinki to do ours? We are looking at buying a flat with some fusty ass 80’s fake-Tuscan tiles everywhere, a sink that looks like an ice cream cone (dead serious), and 80’s colour-changing spot lighting ALONG THE SKIRTING BOARDS.

    Please. Just pack a suitcase of metro tiles and get over here. Finland needs you.

  139. I’ve got a 163-year-old house with a bathroom that needs to be demoed. Want to take a swing out to Ohio and play in Amish country? I’ll supply the sawzall, but not being a drinker, you’d have to bring your own wine.

    It looks great and it was a crime against architecture to have it there in the first place. I just found your site and I am looking forward to following along.

  140. Impressive! It looks so bright and spacious without that weird wall. The wood floors look great in the pictures. I can see all the scratches and marks though, so I understand what you’re saying about just re-doing them, especially if the other rooms are worse.

  141. If you can do those countertops – which were great – you can DIY the floors. They’re just big…floor countertops.

    Loved the post, reassuring to know I am not the only one to ignore the little voice that says but the sawzall down, it’s late and you’ve been drinking.

  142. That looks absolutely amazing!! I can’t believe anyone thought you should keep that wall. To heck with drafty doors. I’d live in that house with a thick coat and earmuffs on during the winter just to be able to enjoy all of that open space and light pouring through now. Absolutely the best decision.

    As far as refinishing floors…yes, I’ve done it. In fact, I’m heading to our new-to-us house today to put the last coat of finish on the 65-year-old oak floors that I’ve been refinishing for the last two weeks. It was definitely one of the top five hardest and most drawn out DIY projects I’ve ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. It took me seven days just to do all of the sanding.

    I didn’t use stain. Just four coats of Waterlox, which gave the oak floors a beautiful warm medium brown color. I’ll be posting the whole before and after of my floors on Monday. Refinishing hardwood floors is certainly not a project for the faint of heart, but from what I’ve seen of your projects, you can certainly handle it.

  143. You can totally DIY the floors. It will suck. Like a lot. But totally doable!

  144. Holy balls that looks amazing! I am obsessed with your front doors, too.

    …I may or may not have just spent the last week or so reading your blog from start to finish. To be fair, I’m between library books right now and I’ve had zero motivation to work on my own house so I needed something to occupy my time. I’m glad it ended up being your blog. Lots of weird looks from my husband as I horse laugh and snort…worth it.

  145. Hi there! Mandi Tremayne sent me. (Meet the Tremaynes blog)… Glad she did as I am already sucked in! Loved this post. Both you and Mandi make me want to start a home blog of my own… but I have fear of commitment, hahaha! Anyway, I digress… (Digression…. It’s my thing)….

    You have ample gazungas, power tools, good friends and vino. What more does one need to tackle a fixer upper? We bought one five years ago. (Built in the forties.) It is definitely a work in progress. We do everything ourselves…. no hired help whatsoever. Even the electrical. So… I can surely appreciate everything that went into just this one demolition project!! Some things should not be done sober :O)

    That new found light is AMAZING! What a difference. Seriously. That old radiator is to die for. Mine are not ornate like yours. Makes me drool a little on my keyboard…. I even love the trim work on the sides of your stairwell. Oh my gosh!

    As far as the floor goes, yours is in great shape. It is SHINY! We redid our living room floor last fall. It was in such bad shape. How bad? Well, we could see when the basement lights were on without being in the basement b/c of the spaces between the boards. Also, we had no shine. None whatsoever. We kept a pair of tweezers on the end table for splinters. No, really. If you were to be brave and walk around shoeless, you were asking for trouble and a tetanus shot. The floors were so rough that we ruined many a pair of expensive EMS hiking socks. They were so crappy that the Mr. had to sand the whole thing down on his hands and knees… with a four inch belt sander. Why? Because a real floor sander would probably have left us with no floor. It would have chewed it up and spit it out.

    I can’t wait to come back and spend hours pouring over your other past projects. For now, my break is over. Nice to “meetcha”!

    ~Sarah from Long Island~

  146. Oh my gawd! Daniel this is amazing! I’ve been following you for a while and I knew once you bought this house you would always do right by it. Your kitchen is gorgeous and turned out so well. I love all the white bright light – it’s truly a beautiful space. Thank you for sharing your home and hilarious self with us.

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