Transforming Scary apartment #1

Here are a few pictures of Scary Apartment #1 AFTER the gross, not-vacuumed ever carpet was removed and after the exterminator made the first of his three visits.

When we first saw the apartment, it was quite overwhelming.  It was so dirty and smelled so bad.  Every inch was nasty.  I wanted to give up.


What we had to deal with :

  • severe tobacco residue on all walls and ceilings.
  • Multiple broken windows
  • Lots of dirt and grime.  I don’t think this place was cleaned in the last 3 years that the tenant lived there.
  • Gross flooring.  The linoleum in the kitchen and bath were disgusting, and the narrow oak flooring (non original) was water damaged, and sanded beyond saving.
  • Horrible bathroom conditions- broken tile, chipped tub, lack of a real shower.

What we did:

  • Took everything out.  The kitchen cupboards we saved.  The tub we saved.  Everything else went.
  • Hired a professional cleaning company.  It took them about 16 man hours to get rid of the tobacco residue.
  • Painted all walls and ceilings with Kilz.  What a pain, but got rid of 100% of the smell and prevented tobacco stain bleed through
  • Layed new hickory flooring.  We layed the floors, but had them professionally finished.
  • Painted all walls Edgecomb Grey by Benjamin Moore.  We painted the trim Alabaster by Sherwin Williams.
  • In the bath, we used the original tub, but added a real shower head and subway tile surround.  The sink is an old one we picked up awhile ago, and the best thing about it is the original custom cabinet that came with it!  I this tiny space, storage is key!  We also reused the old medicine cabinet.  I painted it in kilz and then finished in an enamel paint
  • In the kitchen, we bought 20″ appliances.  We cleaned the cabinets with TSP, painted with Kilz, and finished with Alabaster semi gloss paint.
  • The sink and cabinet!  My favorite part.  We have had this in our garage for a year.  It was really rusty, but we put a steel brush attachment on our grinder and got it down to bare metal!  I primed with “stix” primer, and finished with high gloss enamel paint by Sherwin Williams, also in Alabaster.  I can’t believe how amazing it looks.
  • Also my favorite..  the salvaged French doors!  We found them on a swap site and they happened to be the perfect size for the doorway between the small living room and bedroom.  The veneer was cracked and peeling.  We did a lot of gluing, clamping, and sanding.  I primed them with “Stix” primer and painted with semi gloss Alabaster.

And after ALL of that, here are the after pictures!




I don’t think this space could have been more disgusting when we started.  And now it is such a clean, bright and beautiful spot for someone to call home.   I’m so glad we didn’t give up on it.

A freshened up Hall

Recent wallpaper-themed posts by two of my favorite boggers (Ross and Amy) reminded me that I never recorded the freshening-up of the Hall in Old School.


Here is the hall when we purchased the house:


Here is a better look.  We removed the carpet and found brownish black old linoleum.  

The first step (after emptying if of all the STUFF) was to scrub the walls.  The walls had been skim coated many years ago (I’m thinking 50 years ago) and this was separating from the walls in many spots.


I wasn’t looking forward to the task of scraping these parts off, but my attitude improved considerably when I started to uncover wallpaper!!

I think this silvery pattern may be the original paper.

  Next came this fabulous, bold red pattern!



It was so much fun imagining this pattern and color wall to wall, greeting the family and guests upon arrival.

The next layer is my favorite:



I think this pattern would be lovely today. I wonder when it was put up… I am thinking possibly in the 1920s or 30s.  

After making sure to take lots of pictures, and saving the large scraps of papers as keepsakes, I another skim coat on the walls to even them out.


I painted the walls the same color as the main level, “Dorian Grey” by Sherwin Williams.

We also added a pendant light and shade that we found in the basement (rewired of course).  I think there is a chance that this is where it started out in the first place.

We added a parlor table found in the basement and it there you go- a freshened up hall.

Apartment #1 is ready!

We are ready for our first tenants at Boarding House to move in!  Here are the before and afters of the first apartment we tackled here.


this shows the apartment the day we bought it. dingy carpet, ripped old linoleum, brown, tobacco stained cabinets


And here it is now. we painted the cabinets Alabaster by Sherwin Williams, polished the chrome hardware and chrome light fixture. we knocked out the counter separating the kitchen and living room, which made it possible to add a full sized gas range.


We were amazed at how beautifully the original chrome cabinet hardware shined up

Wall color is Edgecomb Grey from Benjamin Moore.

This is the living room. the narrow oak we found under the carpet was in tough shape and did not have enough thickness left to refinish.


Instead we installed “cabin grade” hickory.  It was only about $1.25/sq foot!  We stained it and had it professionally finished.
Last but not least… the lovely bathroom.  All we had to do in here was subway tile around the tub, add a shower attachment for the faucet, and paint the walls.  The mirror and light were already there and just needed to be polished and cleaned.
This space is not fancy, but it is clean and bright and will make a great space for someone to call home.

May I Present… the “Boarding House”

With a tenant securely in “Old School”, we were able to turn our eyes to taking care of what we have affectionately named the “Boarding House.”  This house sits right next to ours, and since we moved in three years ago, has been a source of heartache.


This house was built in 1919, 20 years after ours.  It makes me wonder if it replaced a smaller dwelling, or if it was the first house built on the lot.  It was constructed as a single family home, but quickly became lodging for borders.  Based on the presence of 6 electrical meters, it remained a boarding house, with all 4 bedrooms upstairs rented out, sharing a bathroom, until the  not-so-distant past.  Currently, it is has 4, 1 bedroom apartments.

Back to my achy heart.   It had not been loved in decades.


I would look at it daily and yearn to own it and take care of it.  I could see what a beautiful house it once was, and that it could easily be again.

When it came on the market in late summer, it was the last thing we needed- adding another house to take care of to our plate.  But in my mind, it was already mine.  It needed me to take care of it, to make sure that it was lovingly restored, not torn down, or made to look like some sort of cardboard box.



Inside, it was a bit underwhelming.  But there were windows!  And cool trim!  And old door knobs!

The photo above showed a vacant and relatively clean apartment.  The one below shows one of the dirty ones, after we took everything out.


This was the worst one- lots of tobacco residue and grime.  We hired it professionally cleaned.  We plan to paint all surfaces with oil-based KILZ before painting.




Double Yikes

So there was a lot of ugly in this place, but there was also… this staircase.


And there were these floors hiding underneath the layers of carpet and old linoleumimg_1731

And the basement was full of cool stuff!img_5995img_6004img_6005


Anyone know what this is???



We are going to use this inside the foyer as a place for tenants to deposit their rent.  I am assuming it was the original mailbox.


So, we took a deep breath and dug in.  And just like that, it started to look beautiful again.



Pocket Door Detectives

Before we move on from Old School,  I want to tell the (long) tale of the Pocket Door Saga.

See, we had these beautiful pocket doors with original hardware that separated the dining room from the bedroom in the main level apartment of the house.  The people we bought the house from, whose 90 year old father had lived there since 1965, and whose grandmother had lived there before that, never remembered them being used!  As far as we know, they had been stowed away in the walls for the last 50-70 years!  Gah!  What a waste!

When we tried to shut the doors, one side glided perfectly, but the other door did not.  This needed to be fixed, because the pocket doors separated the bedroom from living areas of the 1 bedroom apartment.  BUT HOW???  As far as Lance could tell, the only way to get the door down to be worked on would be to take off the trim/ knock a hole in the wall… which we DID NOT want to do.


The problem door.  Notice how something has been gouging the woodwork as it slid 😦

It was then that I gave thanks for the wonderful World Wide Web.  For it is there, on Ross’s blog, I had read about his similar battle with his beloved pocket doors.  And I remembered that there existed someone who could help me.  Stephen, based out of Boston, is an expert in the art of fixing pocket doors, and was remarkably willing to help us via a LOOOOOONG series of emails and text messages.

When I say long, I do mean looooooooooooooooooooooong. Over about a week or more, he and lance were in almost continual contact trying to figure out how to release the broken pocket door from the grips of the mechanism that held it in place.


We took a million photos like this, trying to get to the bottom of the problem.

Essentially, the drama escalated because what Stephen assumed was the hanger that we had was not what it actually was, and so his advice didn’t work for us… at first.  Finally, Lance turned the flashlight on his phone, stuck it up into the pocket door abyss and waved it around with the video camera recording who-knows-what.  It was through these videos that Stephen caught a glimpse of a small decorative detail on the hanger that told him exactly what kind of hanger we had.  It was a rare hanger, but he knew (because he KNOWS these things) what we needed to do to get the pocket door released from this particular hanger.  After he gave Lance the necessary instructions, and after Lance bought a telescoping magnet to help him, the pocket door was fixed and gliding like butter!

Our elusive hanger… it’s a “Scissor type!”



Know what else is cool?  The pocket door at our own residence has the same hanger.  Which is kind of amazing, and yet not that amazing, since our house was built 1 year before Old School, is a half block away, and Sioux Falls was a small town that probably had  a limited number of pocket-door hardware suppliers.  But thinking about that gives me a little thrill.

I am so grateful for other old house bloggers (Ross is one of the best) and especially for Stephen.  Without them, I’m not sure what we would have done.

And now, for your reading pleasure, I wanted to share one of the last email correspondences between the Pocket Door Detectives.

“Hi. As a result of watching your video where the camera was overhead the tracks!! … I see that you do not have the hedgehog hanger, but have instead this ‘scissor type’ E. C. Stearns cast iron hanger.

Same time frame, of course.

There must be a better way for me to describe this hanger, having parallel articulated arms? Can you

think of how to describe that assembly?

Anyway, the point is – that this hanger was fitted out/was designed in a way that … there is no
internal threading built into the hanger body! Instead the internal threads … where we want the adjustment screw to go … are found in a crosswise nut.

In today’s parlance, a crosswise nut is known as a ‘barrel nut.’ And this is used widely in

knock-down furniture. 🙂

SO, the reason you were no able to find any internal threads … when you were extending your 5/16″ threaded rod is – apparently the crosswise nut has fallen out.

I WILL HAVE TO LOOK AT THE VIDEO AGAIN, but I did see the parallel articulated arms briefly in the video

The next thing is for me to go back and see if I see the crosswise nut.

Good going on the video! (Breakthrough in the hunt!)”

I so appreciate people who are passionate about what they do, and Stephen is one of those people.  Thanks, Stephen!

An apartment for rent

We have finished the main level of Old School and it is ready to receive its first tenant next week!

Would you like a tour?


The outside entrance.  Clearly it is not perfect, or in its finished state.  But it is stable.  The porch floor is level and we put in new boards where needed.  We removed two layers of cement board and fiber board siding.  In the Spring, we will paint and make more repairs.  For now, I just scrubbed the porch siding to get all the dirt off and it made a huge difference!

The Kitchen

Before: The kitchen had dated 70s lighting, 5o year old red carpeting (!!!), grimy cabinets, and quality, yet dated appliances.

What we did:  Paint the walls and soffit, replace the sconces with $20 Menards sconces, scrub the cabinets and hardware, replace leaky faucet, put in Craigslist dishwasher, spray paint chandelier “oil-rubbed bronze, and refinish the floors.  We kept the appliances for now, for budgetary reasons.


The Bathroom

I’m sorry I don’t have a before picture for this room!  Honestly, I think its because it was so gross.  The fact that it had 50 year old red carpeting in it should tell you all you need to know.

Here is what we did:  Refinished floors, painted the walls BM “Edgecomb Grey” and the cabinets BM “Simply White.”  We got new pulls for the cabinets too.  We got a simple sink from Habitat for Humanity Restore.  We cleaned up the original tub and put subway tile on the walls of a shower.  We got a new toilet (duh!).  We put up salvaged fixtures with school house shades.  I think the result is clean, fresh and simple.



The sconce in this photo was found in the basement of the house next to ours.  It had been sitting in box below a leaky pipe for a long time and was really rusted.  I scrubbed the fixture with steal wool and spray painted it with Rustoleum.  The white shade was also very discolored with rust, and it didn’t come out when I washed it.  I let it soak overnight in diluted CLR and all the rust disappeared!



The Bedroom



This room just required painting, refinishing the floors and a new light fixture.  The fixture that was in here only had a pull chain- no switch.  We decided to put in a ceiling fan, and use the remote as the light switch!


The Dining and Living Rooms:


The rooms had faux-wood paneling, red carpet and 1970s fixtures.


We painted, refinished the floors, cleaned and put in antique lights that my husband rewired.  The walls and the windows make the room.


This was a lot of work, and we have often reflected that most of what we have done is take things OUT of the house.  Carpet, lights, dirt, garbage, random stuff, etc, etc.  The house is slowing starting to resemble the beauty she originally was built to be.  I can’t wait to see her enjoyed as a home again.

Thanksgiving at Home

The Fall of 2016 continues to move ahead at break-neck speed.  I cannot believe that Christmas is now a month away.

Today we took a little breather and put our own house back together.  Cleaned it, rearranged furniture in a couple of rooms, hung up that clock that fell off the wall a couple weeks ago, etc.

We did this because we got to host Thanksgiving this year.  It felt good to put our old house to use and to fill it with warmth, good food, laughter and thankfulness.  We put the extra leaves in the dining room table, got out the silver and the china and set up a kid’s table in the kitchen.   It felt like the house rose to the occasion.  It felt like it was saying, “this is what I am here for.  I exist to provide shelter and nourishment to the ones you love.  To create memories.  To look pretty.  To give you a place to rest.”


Happy Thanksgiving!  Thanks for visiting!


I don’t even know where to begin with all that has been going down around this place.  We have been working HARD doing things like pouring porch footings, scrubbing tobacco residue off of popcorn ceiling, tearing up carpeting, pulling thousands of staples and throwing away piles of trash.  My mind spins all day long, trying to prioritize and balance our housing deadlines with my 2 other jobs, and my 3 kids.  My body aches at night, and I have lost weight, I think because there isn’t as much time to eat.  This has been rough.  It has also been fun.  Little by little, we are loving these houses back to life.










Next we painted the faux wood paneling.  We don’t have time to see what is underneath… for now, the paneling stays.  The color we chose is “Dorian Grey” by Sherwin Williams.  PS- check out these vent covers!!!

Could the paneling be doing any LESS for these windows?


In other news, I lugged my vacuum upstairs one day and realized I COULD NOT vacuum the ugly stained shag carpeting one more time.  My husband had told be to absolutely NOT tear up the carpeting until we had time to address the mess that was likely to be under it.  I considered this.  Then I just tore up one tiny corner to see what was underneath.  Then I tore it all up. 

Is it in rough shape?  Kind of.  Is it better than the carpeting?  ABSOLUTELY. 

Back at Old School, we indulged ourselves in the luxury of paying someone to refinish the wood floors (this is getting EXCITING!)  Note: the main entry living room has wider planks than all of the other rooms (even the kitchen and bedrooms).  WHY??


We still need to paint kitchen and bath, tile the shower, find a new sink and dishwasher, hang new (salvaged) light fixtures and get the new furnace put in, but THEN, hopefully by Dec 1, someone will be enjoying this lovely space (and paying us for the pleasure!)

 PS- if you are tired of waiting for me to post updates on all of our rehab schenanigans, you can “like” my facebook page- “The Harrison Delong House.”  I usually post updates there a couple times a week!


Catching up on Old School

When we moved onto this street 3 years ago, we had no idea that not only would we soon be taking care of not only our beloved Queen Anne, but also 3 other old houses on our block.  This spring, we joined together with my sister and brother-in-law to purchase our first of what will (next month!)  be three rental homes.  All three were built as single family homes, but were converted between 100 to 50 years ago into apartments.

A little while ago, I introduced you to what we now call “Old School.”  “Old School” because right now, it looks like some sort of creepy, run-down frat house.

Here is Old School a week ago:


This is the day that we cut down the ginormous willow tree in the front yard.  Willow trees are my favorite, but not when they are planted so close to the house that it touches the porch and causes it to rot.  And we found out today, when the stump was ground out that it was rotten in the center, so eventually it would have come down anyway, and could have taken part of the house with it.  Good riddance!

Inside of Old School, we have been busy demoing.  We decided to remove the attic access stairs, in order to enlarge the living room, and also because we didn’t want renters to have access to the attic.  We will patch the floors with old fir, and add an access door to the attic in the ceiling.



We also opened up the wall between the living room and kitchen.  The “living room” was originally just the upstairs foyer.  It is much more living room sized now without the stairs and with this wall opened up.



Once and a while, we come across a treasure, like this unused compact of Coty rouge… I think possibly from the 30s/40s.  It was found in a vent- I am sure some lady 70 years ago was pretty ticked she lost her brand new rouge!


While all of this has been fun, it hasn’t come close to the fun we have had the last two evenings outside.

Here is an original picture of the house:  Note the porch pillars/ railing.

Wow- a whole lot of detail was covered up, wasn’t it?  Not how the original fancy pillars were replaced with square, boring ones.  Also notice how the 3rd upstairs window disappeared.  And don’t get me started on the missing railing.

But last night… and major discovery:


The pillars are. still. there.   !!!!!!!

And then another one:


The original clapboards are still there… and are in immaculate shape!  (At least under the protection of the porch roof).


Well, needless we were inspired and started tearing into it:


Eeeek!  The trim is there too!  And, based on paint inside the windows, we can confirm that this is the original color scheme!



We also found this aqua molding piece-  could this be an original color as well?  It seems odd…



It still looks img_5193

It still looks pretty rough, but I really do feel that with every piece of old siding we remove, we are bringing new life to this tired old house.

Finishing touches: porch skirting

I have yet to post any official “AFTER” pictures of our exterior, because, well it wasn’t DONE.  But now it is, because we finally got around to the porch skirting.  If you’d like to read more about why porch skirting is SO IMPORTANT, please read  this:

Here is the oldest photo we have of our house, fromt he 1940’s.  Please note the decorative “skirt” below the porch

Miraculously, the skirting was still in place when we purchased the house, but in disrepair (duh.. it was 125 years old!)


A closer look:


We needed to replace three sections of skirting.  Of course, all were different lengths, and each section started at one width, and ended at another, due to the natural slope of the ground that the house sits on.  This called for some geometry.  And so I called my husband.


He told me about it once… something about measuring the diameter of the circles, keeping them at the same distance from the edge of the frame, dividing the S curve into quarters, and keeping that curve the same width as the circles… anyway.. here’s a picture of it:

IMG_5050Anyhoo… they turned out pretty great.


As you can see, this kind of work is best done on a sunny day, in your garage and with a cold beverage of your choosing.  Of course the beverage is sitting on a randome vintage farmhouse sink.  If you are a real old house person, you will have one of these taking up space in your garage.


If possible, have your dad and 6 year old do the painting.


The old and the new.  Both beautiful.  Of course, I am saving the old.  After 127 years, I was not going to be the one to throw them in the landfill.  They will wait up in the attic for the next someone to discover them and marvel at their age and design.

And now, for some after pictures.  You are seeing 18 months worth of painting, a new roof, new cedar shake siding, new tuck pointing, and NEW (historically accurate) PORCH SKIRTING!


One more look at Before… Spring 2014image

After… Summer 2016IMG_5030IMG_5028IMG_5034