Look at that, I did computer things and made an OK-looking floor plan! It makes the house look so…clean and Sims-like? Into it.
Once I started editing the photos for this post, I quickly realized that putting together a tour for a couple thousand square feet of house is really different than throwing together a few photos of a 500 square foot apartment! As we have a bit more ground to cover, I figured it would be best to split the tour into three posts—the downstairs, the upstairs, and the exterior. The second floor isn’t as big as the first floor (and doesn’t need as much work!), so I promise this is the longest of the three posts! Grab a drink, settle in, try not to get vertigo trying to decipher this photo/word-dump.
Because the house was not-so-gracefully split into 2 units at some point (probably the 70s; everyone did crazy stuff in the 70s), some fun and funky modifications were made to the floor plan that we’ll be removing. The first hits you just five feet inside the front door: this huge weird wood-paneled wall with a wood hollow-core door and three weird windows. I can’t WAIT to rip it down. The front doors beyond it (which you can see in the first photo) are pretty and let tons of light in, so I’m really excited to see the entryway immediately brighten up once it comes down.
Due to the era of the house (about 1895), it would have been common for there to have been a vestibule at the entrance. Obviously this one isn’t original, but based on the placement of doors, moldings, and the flooring, I’m almost certain that this house never had a vestibule, so it isn’t something we have to replace. Once through the vestibule, two doors on either side have been blocked off with big sheets of plywood nailed into the door frames. Luckily, the original doors are just waiting on the other side—unluckily, they’re locked! Like most old houses, ours came with an enormous pile of old keys, so I’m hoping one of them works to unlock the doors. I don’t want to try to take the plywood off from the outside because I’d end up wreaking all kinds of havoc on the original moldings, which I’m obviously trying to preserve.
But the stairwell! I love the stairs. I love that they’re big and straight, and I love the handrail and the spindles and I especially love the big chunky newel post at the bottom. It was the first thing I saw and fell in love with when I walked into the house for the first time. I’m still amazed and really happy that after 120 years, nobody ever decided to paint it. The risers still have the hardware for whatever kind of runner was here originally, and the treads have a few layers of paint (which was sloppily applied and got all over the bottom of the spindles—hello tedious restoration task!).
The radiator is a “Rococo” style radiator produced by the American Radiator Company——one of best-selling designs in North America for many years, they were produced from about 1895 to 1920, give or take a few years. The exact same style of radiator is all over the house (with a different, more utilitarian style in the bathrooms and kitchens), and I just love them. Most of them only have a couple layers of paint on them, and all seem to be in good working condition! Knowing around when the radiators were made is a decent indication of the age of the house (which we’re still not sure about), but it’s possible that they were added at some point later on.
That last shot is looking back toward the entry from the bathroom door. The door on the right leads down to the basement (so scary!) and the door on the left is obviously a newer addition and was the entrance to the first floor apartment. It should come down easily enough.
Beyond taking down the walls and un-blocking the doors, we need to restore the walls, paint the radiator, figure out what to do with the stairs (I think I want to strip/refinish the treads), and address the existing terrible drywall job on the ceiling. There isn’t any wiring for a ceiling fixture, so I’d really like to have that installed and put a nice light fixture in here. The only existing light is that little 1920s sconce on the wall in the first picture, which is pretty dim and creepy at night.
You’ve already seen a glimpse of the first floor bathroom, but here it is in all its horrifying glory! Amazingly, these photos are actually phenomenally flattering. It’s really bad.
Based on the fixtures, I’m guessing this bathroom was put in around 1920 or so, and saw some “updates” around the 1960s or 70s. Right now, it’s totally unusable——there’s brown water backed up in the tub (which I’ve since vacuumed out with my fancy new Shop Vac, but the pipe must be clogged because it still doesn’t drain), the toilet tank is broken in a few places and leaks when flushed. Oh yeah, and the door is off the hinges. So there’s that.
I love this bathroom, though. If possible, I want to salvage the sink and the tub, and possibly the medicine cabinet (or at least the mirror part) and a few other little fixtures in the room. The bathroom is super duper small, so I think it’ll be a good maiden voyage into full-on bathroom renovation! I’m sure it’ll be riddled with problems and horrifying discoveries, but I can totally see this bathroom being fresh, clean, and really, really beautiful. If time and budget allow, I’d like to get started on the bathroom soon, but if not, it’s not going anywhere. There’s a functioning bathroom on the second floor, so at minimum we’ll get the pipes draining, put the door back on and try to forget it’s there until we can tackle it!
Back at the front of the house, there’s this room. I don’t really know what this room will even be, honestly——I wanted something like a home office/workspace, Max wants it to be more like a casual, cozy den. That door in the top photo is the one covered in plywood on the other side. It’ll be so nice when it’s finally open again!
This room has three nice windows and gets a ton of light. The light fixture in this room is probably the nicest one in the house, and the corner radiator is the craziest/coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
The last photo shows where there was either a fireplace or some kind of wood-burning stove back in the day. At some point, it was removed and the floor was (badly) patched in. On the left, you can see that itty-bitty skinny door, which opens into a little foot-deep closet thing. It’s so quirky and bizarre. I love it.
A note about the wallpaper, since a couple people have asked: it’s actually not wallpaper! These walls were wallpapered (a few times from what I can tell), but this pattern is actually hand-stamped. Every room except the kitchen and bathroom on the first floor have some version of it in different colors and different patterns. In the entryway/hallway and this room, the pattern is done in gold paint which has dulled a lot over the years, but is still pretty awesome.
As to whether we’re keeping the wallpaper, the answer is probably not. Because the house was vacant for about two years and without heat, the freeze-thaw effect caused a lot of the underlying paper to fall away from the plaster underneath, so most of the wallpaper is in really, really bad shape. I’m considering trying to keep one wall of it somewhere, though. It’s clearly not original to the house and clearly outdated (in kind of an amazing way?), but mostly I love that it so clearly demonstrates that somebody really really cared about this house at one point. The walls were obviously a huge labor of love, so I want to find some way to commemorate that as we renovate.
The dining room! It’s a great size for a full dining table, which I’m so excited about. I really want to host Thanksgiving for both of our families this year, so there’s a little fire under our asses to try to at least make this room nice before then!
The top photo shows the kitchen entrance on the left and a closet door on the right. The closet was added later (I’m guessing also around the 1920s—it looks like the house underwent a pretty major renovation sometime around then, based on the bathroom and some other stuff), which is pretty obvious since neither the door nor the moldings match the rest of the room. The closet (and the pantry in the kitchen) were formed when a back stairwell was ripped out. Down the line, it’s possible we might rip out this closet, patch in the wall and molding, and extend the pantry to make a huge pantry, with the entrance in the kitchen. If that makes sense. We’ll see.
The second photo shows the same closet door and a window, which faces into the enclosed side porch. To the right of the window is a radiator (it’s under a wood cover, but the radiator underneath is the same fancy kind as the others!), and to the right of that is this cool window bay with an arched entry! The arch and floor in the bay is pretty water-damaged from an earlier roof leak, but I’m hopeful that we can salvage everything with a little TLC.
You can’t see in the photo, but on the left side of the bay is a door, not a window. I thought that this was originally an exterior door leading out to the side porch, but I think perhaps it was added later, after a window was torn out. In any case, later on a wall was added right behind the door to create another small closet. At the very least, I’d like to take down this wall and re-open the door to the side porch. The existing closet is really janky, and we really don’t need a third closet in this room at all.
I’ve already posted these images of the kitchen, but here it is again! I’ve been working really hard on it and it already looks SO different. I’ve finally gotten to that point (paint on the walls! OMG!) where I can tell it’s going to be so awesome. Just you wait.
Off the kitchen is the entrance to the “side porch,” which is just all kinds of bad. This space was finished really badly, the roof is leaking, and it’s just generally dirty and ugly and terrible and weird. Like the kitchen, a drop ceiling was also installed here (realtor had the tiles removed), and the original beadboard ceiling is right above it!
SOMEDAY, probably wayyyyy down the line, I’d really like to restore the porch to be…an actual porch. There’s a porch on the front of the house, too, but it would be so great to be able to do the house justice and make this porch what it’s supposed to be. As it is, there’s really nothing in here worth salvaging (crappy aluminum windows, ugly baseboard heater, gross linoleum), but I’m guessing the original clapboard will be intact under the paneling, which is exciting. Also worth salvaging: weird little light, weird little dog.
This is number 11 and 12 on the floor plan. Even though it’s one of the rooms that needs the most work, HOLY COW I’m so excited for it. SO, SO EXCITED.
I used to think this room wasn’t original to the house, but I might have changed my mind. In any case, it’s by far the biggest room in the house and has the only fireplace. The fireplace isn’t functional (I actually think it may never have been wood-burning, but instead had a wood stove in front of it that vented through that black metal grate), but maybe we can change that? Even if we can’t, it’s so pretty. The portrait of the woman on the beach is one of Max’s thrift finds——I just put her there so she wouldn’t get damaged.
This room has seen a number of modifications over the years, including the construction of a closet to the right of the fireplace and the enormous wall of glass doors and windows directly to the left of the mantel. Every single person (Max included) thinks this wall is super cool and thinks it should stay——and while YES, it is really cool, I think it has to go. It isn’t original to the house, and cuts the most amazing room in the house into two not-super-amazing, awkwardly sized spaces. If/when we go to sell the house, I know that this is going to be the stand-out room that seals the deal for some lucky person, and I don’t want to compromise that because of some weird, semi-pretty addition that someone had installed over the years. At the very least, I’d like to reuse the cute little built-in cabinets in the “sunroom” area somewhere else in the house, and maybe we’ll find a place for some of the doors and windows, too? If not, we’ll sell or donate them to architectural salvage, where hopefully they’ll make someone really happy.
I’m kind of obsessed with the huge windows in this room. I know the photos are totally blown-out (sorry!), but they look out onto the front porch. Obviously the previous owner had intentions of replacing them with those huge aluminum windows sitting in the photo, but I’m so glad it never happened. I think most people would probably replace the windows with either new windows or doors onto the porch, but I can’t really stomach the idea of that. Not every old window is, like, super precious (I guess), but I’ve never seen anything like these——6 over 9 sash windows that are like nine feet tall? Super cool. I wonder how huge those sash weights are!
The other bummer in this room is the floor. Lest you were fooled (you probably weren’t), that’s not a nice parquet floor——that’s ugly 60s or 70s linoleum tile. Unlike the rest of the first floor, I don’t think there’s nice hardwood underneath it, either——just a plywood underlayment over top of the original pine-plank subfloor. I guess the two options are going down to the subfloor and refinishing that, or laying new flooring directly on top of the linoleum. It’ll probably depend on a couple factors, like whether the existing tiles contain asbestos (in which case we’d probably opt to just cover them rather than incur the cost/drama of removing them), and whether we’d be crazy to use the subfloor as a finished floor, what with the heat loss and possibility of creepy-crawlers coming up through the boards from the crawl-space underneath this room.
Also, yeah. A huge antique piano came with the house. I guess we’ll keep it? It’s sort of awesome and the idea of trying to get it back out of the house sounds hard. It’s falling apart a little and woefully out of tune, but there’s obviously no real rush on restoring it…and who couldn’t use a massive old piano? I guess?
ANWAY, this room. Dream with me for a moment. Maybe it needs a herringbone floor? Maybe it needs a coffered ceiling? Maybe it needs new electrical and an amazing light fixture? Maybe it needs to have the radiators re-routed and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on either side of the fireplace? Maybe I need to come back down to earth?
Maybe. So many maybes. I like maybes.
For extra credit, I put together this second floor plan, showing how things change a little once we start taking down walls and opening doors and restoring the old layout. It’s going to be crazy.