Restoration is a funny business: you work so hard for so long, but the success of the final product basically hinges on making it look like you’ve done nothing at all. I’ve fantasized for plenty of years about the day when I can just welcome friends and family into a nicely restored house—one that doesn’t bear years of neglect, deferred maintenance, and general mistreatment on its sleeve. A happy, healthy house that can be enjoyed and kicked back in!
And now that we’re kind of getting there? All I want to do is scream “NO, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” when someone pays me a compliment (just take it, for god’s sake Daniel!) about the house, and then I have to launch into a whole monologue about all the things I’ve had to undo and redo to get it to this point. It’s incredibly irritating to me and, presumably, everyone else around me. But somehow I can’t resist? Even though all I do is talk about it online?
There’s something wrong in my brain.
ANY. WAY. I bought this house OVER 7 YEARS ago—madness! I was still back-and-forth to Brooklyn during the first year, and have renovated several other houses/spaces during that time, but still. That is so many years! Back in 2013, I remember thinking that the bulk of the rehab work would be done in a couple of years and then I’d move more into smaller projects and maintenance and general admiration at my beautiful home and all the fabulous work I put into it.
Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHA. I was so spectacularly wrong. There is still SO MUCH to do. Regardless, I think it’s high time for an updated tour! I wish we (the collective “we”) would get more comfortable sharing works in progress, and I guess that starts with the man in the mirror. This is where I’m at, and it’s not done and probably never will be, but this shit is hard so here we go. This blog is more about the journey than the destination anyhow!
I guess let’s start by reviewing the floor plan! This is a slightly modified version of what I posted back in 2013—I have no idea what crappy software I used to make it so I tweaked it in Photoshop to include things like THE FRONT PORCH that I seem to have overlooked when I drew this up the first time. Don’t mind me.
Man, there was so much going on back then. The house had been divided in the 1970s into a duplex, so there was quite a lot to undo to restore the single-family layout. On top of that, a few additions that had been built sometime fairly early in the house’s history were suffering some major damage, and because they weren’t original I eventually felt OK about tearing them off and reclaiming some of the light and original layout that had been lost as a result of their construction.
Here’s where we sit today—significantly simplified and paired back to more-or-less the original layout! The back of the house (rooms 5, 7, and 9) is definitely my own invention, but the layout feels natural for the house and is better suited to me and the demands of modern living. The parlor (#3) is really the one space that’s remained largely untouched—that wall bisecting the space isn’t supposed to be there, nor is the small closet. That’s going to be a hell of a room someday! Just not TOday. The house functions like any other side-hall layout without it, so even though it’ll be incredibly gratifying it’s pretty low on the priority list.
So let’s start where we did 7 years ago when I introduced you to this house for the first time. Right at the front door!
Yikes! All the walls on the first floor and the hallway were some variation of this scheme—it looks like wallpaper, but was really done with a patterned roller! Underneath the paint job was the wallpaper, which of course all had to be stripped off the original plaster. Doors to the living room and parlor had been boarded over, and a 1970s wall/doorway addition created a super weird vestibule and blocked nearly all natural light coming through the front doors. The only other light source was that little sconce you can see dangling there, so the whole space was just SO DARK.
Much! Better! The weird wall is gone, the original doorways are back in action, and I swapped in the dining room radiator (a little narrower than the one that had been in the hall originally) and moved it closer to the front door, thereby keeping the passage next to the stairwell as wide as possible.
I know we just went through this space a few months ago after I wrapped up the renovation in here (for now), but a few things have already changed—including…hello, big mirror! I love that mirror. It’s large, reflects a lot of light, has nice impact, and shouldn’t get damaged with heat from the radiator like I was worried art might. I think it was $20 at Habitat ReStore.
Still to do: I still haven’t hung anything on that long expanse of wall between the two doorways—I think I know what I want, but framing is $ and I want to do it up right! Holla at me, Framebridge. I know you do that good good sponsored content. (this is how pitching works, right?)
That newel post was really love at first sight. But again—the space was just so dark and dreary that it was hard to appreciate how great it could all be!
Hiiiiiiiiii! Being able to walk into this space (or invite guests into this space, as few and far between as those have been in recent months!), has completely changed everything. I feel like such a real fancy grown-up, living in a house an adult human might occupy. It’s bananas.
Still to do: FLOORS. I want to refinish my floors so badly, but I’m holding off until I install the kitchen floor, and possibly until after the Cottage is done so the dogs and I can move out briefly while the poly dries and stuff. I also want to add a couple more coats of poly to the stair treads—as predicted, dog nails are not kind to soft pine!
I hated that wall so much. SO MUCH. I remember saving its demo as a special treat for when the Phase 1 kitchen renovation was done, and it was exactly as exciting as I imagined it would be. Even though my friend stepped on a nail in the process—don’t demo in flip-flops, folks!
Ahhhhhhhh. I hope we can agree this is an improvement.
The ceiling is new drywall, and I’ve added these foam ceiling medallions around the house. There was a light fixture in this general location originally (I found the original gas line after the electric was roughed in already—the original light was a bit closer to the door, but whatcha gonna do). I don’t know what the original medallions looked like, so I made it up! In retrospect this one is overscaled for the space, but it represents what I thought was best at the time and that’s OK too. I’ve added my own layer of history to this house, and a real stickler can redo stuff like that someday when I’m gone.
Still to do: I ordered the wrong size flanges for the radiator (that piece that goes around the pipe where it meets the floor), so I still have to remedy that. The front door needs a doorstop so it doesn’t hit the wall. OH YEAH, and I have GOLD TRANSOM HOUSE NUMBERS still sitting in a box because I’m trash and can’t get anything done even when I spend all my time at home. EVIDENTLY. I’ll get to it.
Opposite the new big mirror, I hung this sweet little piece of art I picked up at an antique store (I think? honestly don’t remember). I think it was painted in Victorian times and it’s really pretty, even if it’s not the type of thing I normally gravitate toward! It feels kinda goth Victorian which is a mood I’m ABOUT.
Still to do: I think some kind of hook situation would work better in this spot, since there’s nowhere presently to hang a jacket or whatever. I’ll just continue to hem and haw about the best way to accomplish that for the next several years. Check back in 2025!
I recently swapped out the front door glass with this pebbled textured variety for privacy. PSYCH! It’s just this window film from Lowe’s which I happened to have squirreled away in the basement from years ago. Turns out I actually really like it, and because I had the materials on hand it was a very quarantine-friendly project.
Still to do: I have a gorgeous antique doorbell I’d like to install (even if it’s purely ornamental), just because. Bling! Also, while the window film looks great inside, it looks significantly less great outside, so I think I’ll just add it to the exterior of the glass too. I guess we’ll save that for the updated exterior tour! Eventually I’ll likely just spring for new glass and replace what’s here entirely—it’s not original, so it wouldn’t be any big loss to swap it for something better suited to my needs. I’ve also considered trying to etch a pattern into the clear glass, like you sometimes see on houses of this era where the original door lites have survived.
That 70s doorway is what used to create the entrance to the first floor apartment, but now it’s gone gone gone!
Told ya—this is where I’m at, no excuses! My Marie Kondo-style-whole-house-purge left me with a load of boxes of stuff to sell/donate, which are currently stacked in the back corner of the hallway. It is what it is. I’ll get them all out eventually!
Still to do: I never painted the other side of the basement door, so I should do that at some point! Additionally, I guess enough time and distance has passed for me to admit: I lost steam and ran out of time (sponsored posts have deadlines, it turns out!) to completely finish painting this space, so a lot of the trim on the first floor in the hall only has one coat of paint! It totally looks fine in person, but it would look better if I really applied myself and got that all wrapped up for real this time. Finding the time and motivation to do it is the hard part.
At the back of the hall, you may recall that there was a bathroom! When I bought the house, that tub had most recently served as a grave for the previous owner. So that’s special. This bathroom was put in around the mid-1930s by enclosing a little sitting porch, so again—it doesn’t feel too precious that I can’t make some modifications to better suit the here-and-now!
I owe you a blog post on the demo process, but here’s the space now! If it looks a little smaller, that’s because it is—I stole the space from the bathtub to enlarge what’s now the pantry/back door area, so this is now slated to just be a powder room. Toilet, sink, done! I chose to do this in part because I could, in part because I really wanted that pantry space, in part because TBH I don’t want to put the death tub back in since I couldn’t get the body stains out (I wish I was kidding. I’m not.), and in part because I feel like eliminating a full bathroom on the first floor makes it highly unlikely anyone will get the wild idea to divide this house into apartments again. Some houses are suited to that kind of alteration, but this just isn’t one of them.
Even though this space is just studs right now, it’s pretty much ready for finish work! New plumbing and electric has been roughed in, so it’s really just waiting on me to dive in. It’ll help when all my IKEA cabinets are outta there and assembled in my very own kitchen! Dare! To! Dream!
Part of the work in this space entailed swapping out the window for one that’s a bit larger and centered on the new wall. I also swapped the toilet location with the sink location, so the toilet tank will hang a bit below this window, light from the window will reflect off the mirror, and with the door ajar you’ll be able to glimpse the sink instead of the toilet from the front door. It’s going to be CUTE!
Tragically, my dumb ass dropped a hammer on the medicine cabinet and shattered the glass. It was a few years ago and is still so upsetting. I’ve bought a few medicine cabinets since then (what is wrong with me!!!!! nobody needs like 5 vintage/antique medicine cabinets on hand), but none are as pretty as this one that was already here! Sigh. Casualties of war.
I’m planning to reinstall the base of the toilet, but the tank is cracked so I’ll need to find another one. The nice thing about old toilets is that the tank typically hangs on the wall and is only attached to the base with an L-shaped pipe, so I should be able to find a new tank/lid that’ll work with a little hunting around at the salvage shops.
Now this wall is framed and ready for the sink, along with a couple of sconces on either side of a medicine cabinet that is TBD. Worst case, I just stick a mirror there and call it a day/cut out the wall when the right medicine cabinet comes along. You know how I like to redo things.
So that’s where things stand in this part of the house! Stay tuned for the other rooms!