Our New Old House

A month or so ago, we were presented with the opportunity to purchase a house on our block in need of new owners.  The current owner was very ill and unable to care for it any longer.  We saw this as a great opportunity to restore another home in our neighborhood, and also the potential for income, as it has been a duplex for some time, and we would keep it as such.


Here is the house in the 1940s:


It was built in 1890, I year after ours.  I love to imagine our house, fresh and new in 1890, and just down the street, ground being broken on this one.

Here is the house now:


You will see many, many details missing, or covered up.  However, the gable fretwork remains, much to my delight.  When we first moved to the neighborhood, 2 years ago, I would run by this house and marvel at this detail.  “This house used to be something beautiful…” I thought to myself.  And it was.  And it will be.


Here are a few shots of the downstairs:


The walls are all covered in paneling!  The house underwent a renovation in the 70s, and has not changed since.  There is orange carpeting in EVERY room.. yes, even in the bathroom and kitchen.


If you can see past the paneling and the carpeting, this place has a lot of potential.  There are 3 huge picture windows in the living/dining areas



The window in the kitchen is non-original, but I do love it.  It lets in wonderful light, and gives a great view of the huge backyard.


Other than a new floor and paint, there isn’t a lot we will do to the kitchen.  Probably some new pulls for the cupboard.


Stained glass in the bedroom.


The view from the landing upstairs.

And here are some shots of the upstairs, where we will be spending our time for now.



The upstairs has been an apartment for a very long time, but no one has lived here for many, many years.. maybe decades.  Check out this vintage kitchen!


And a gross vintage bath complete with disgusting red carpet!


You can imagine that the first thing we did was yank up that nasty carpet.  Underneath- gorgeous fir planks.


This was so cool.  This was a hidden closet in one of the bedrooms.  It had 2 large closests, and this one was under a curtain.  I didn’t even see it the first time we looked at the house.  When I did notice it and opened the door, I felt like I was the first person to do so in at least 50 years.  It appears this closet used to be a kitchen!


The larger of the two bedrooms- I love the light in this place.



The largest bedroom had asbestos linoleum under the carpet.  We plan on getting salvaged fir to match the rest of the house


Another bedroom- also very good sized.  The owner collected 70s lighting!  This is just a little bit of what I found in one closet!


A look at the floors in the kitchen.. they are so beautiful!  We plan on refinishing them.


There was some water damage in the kitchen from an old, leaky roof.  Lucky for us, there is a new roof and no more water damage.


I just love uncovering the layers of walpaper


Our reward… uncovering the lost window.  We knew that there had been a 3rd window on the front of the house, but were not sure in what state we would find it.  We are so excited to take off the ugly siding and to show the neighborhood what we found!

The Butler’s Pantry: Adding Color

When I checked my stats today, I noticed some unusual activity… instead of my usual 5-10 views/day, I was having 200-400 views!  A quick look at my referrers showed me that Country Living was somehow involved, and then I saw that I had been included in this article!  http://www.countryliving.com/real-estate/news/g3530/8-old-house-renovation-blogs-you-need-to-follow/

I am very honored to be included with the 7 other amazing blogs.  To think that the Chateau de Gudanes and my little Queen Anne Cottage are included in any sort of list together is pretty hilarious!

If you are new to My Queen Anne, welcome!  I hope you enjoy learning about what we have done, are doing, and will do to beautify our little corner of the world.


Now, where were we.  The butler’s pantry.  Paint.


When it came time to paint the butler’s pantry, my 6 year old said, “I’d be happy to help you paint, mom!  Because, you know, the more the merrier!”  Ummm… I’m not sure that saying pertains to painting your butler’s pantry with your kiddo…



We continued the colors from our kitchen into the Butler’s Pantry.  On the walls:  Frostwork, from Sherwin William’s Historical Collection.  Woodwork:  Spotswood Teal, from Benjamin Moore’s Williamsburg collection.


The view from my stove when everything was cleaned up.  Oh, how I love this little room.  Also, I was shocked at how nice my old basic gas stove looks!  Almost makes me think twice about wanting to upgrade… almost.


As you can see from the daffodils, this picture was taken in the Spring… months ago!  We have not been able to finish this room yet- when the weather warmed up, our projects called us outside. 

Since April, we have added two, TWO more historic houses to our lives, in addition to the one we already have, and of course our careers and 3 kids.  Life has been busy, to say the least and we have had to learn how to balance it all.  An important lesson to learn in all that is that these old houses have waited over a century for us.  Their decline has been slow.  They will wait a little longer.  Our kids, on the other hand, need us every day.  The way they change is fast and unrelenting.  As much as possible, we choose them over the old houses that we love so well.  And so, the butler’s pantry can wait for its quarter round and new electrical outlets.  It’s summer vacation- and I have three amazing kids to play with!

The floors

IMG_0866This picture shows what we were dealing with when it came time to finish the floors in the butler’s pantry.  The boards in the bottom half of the photo are in the adjacent powder room.  The narrower planks are what we found in the butler’s pantry.  Curious that they were laid at the same time, in close proximately to each other, and yet a different size plank was used. I assume that the powder room, having more casual wide planks, had a more lowly purpose than the pantry?  At the very top of the photo you can see the linoleum and subfloor that had been in place, probably since the 1990s.

When we were removing part of the cabinets to modify it for a desk (more to come on that), we found 2 layers of very old linoleum!!!  What a fun discovery.  This was not only exciting because we got to see they decorating materials from decades past, but it gave us evidence that the built in cabinet was not original.  For this floor was found completely encased in the cabinet- there would be no reason to lay floor here- in fact it would have been impossible.

IMG_4112 IMG_4117

Once the planks were sanded, we were very pleased with how they looked.

IMG_3954 IMG_3955

The finished result after 2 coats of satin polyurethane:


Getting Started in the Butler’s Pantry

The first thing we needed to do was repair a bit of ceiling that had been damaged by water- both before and after we owned the house.  Most recently, when we remodeled the upstairs bath and moved the tub into the closet, there was a miniscule leak, that after 2 WEEKS finally saturated the dry wall enough to begin to drip onto the butler’s pantry floor.  THAT was NOT a fun discovery.  We decided that the odds of having water issues with both the toilet and tub directly above were pretty high, and so we cut access panels into the ceiling board. IMG_3888

Next, we began to strip the butler’s pantry cabinetry.  We used a heat gun- it worked great!!  I was extremely cautious with it- never leaving it plugged in when not in use.IMG_3889We are not positive what the wood is. We thought it would be pine, but it seemed lighter than expected… maybe it is poplar?


What a mess.

We are also not sure what the orignial finish of the cabinets was.  When removing the original hinges, we found this finish underneath.  Maybe it was milk paint or pickling? IMG_1056

The other suprise was that underneath a laminate cover, the original beadboard back-splash was in place.  I had no idea this was there!  I love how even when you think you know every inch of a house, it still has suprises waiting for you.IMG_3931

I used a putty knife pry the laminate off and then the heat gun to melt the old glue.  It worked great.IMG_4011

Next on the list was stripping the cabinet hardware.  It looked like there were at least 3-4 layers of paint on them.  We gave them a soak in the crock pot and the paint came right off.


The hinge on the right shows what we thought was the original finish.  Kind of a cheap gold color.  We were disappointed.  But after scrubbing with steel wool, it became clear that this was also a paint job!  The orignial finish is shown on the hinge to the left.IMG_4060

So much better.  Now, why would you ever want to paint this???IMG_4062

The Butler’s Pantry Project

The bathroom is done and now it is time to move next door to the Butler’s Pantry.  Before we begin, I always like to look back to where we were.

The sink and the cabinets in this room are very old.  But I am not sure they are original.  If anyone else out there as thoughts about the circa of them I’d love to know.  I figured the sink was not original, but during the project we found evidence that would suggest that the cabinets were not original.  My knowledge of 1890s kitchens is limited, but I wonder if this room was originally more of a pantry with open shelves and/or a dry sink.

Her are a couple pictures of the butler’s pantry circa 1990s, I believe.  The walls and cabinets are all painted a light periwinkle.  It looks like the counter top is covered with faux-wood contact paper.  It appears the room was being used as a baking center/ office.butler's pantrybutler's pantry2The next pictures are from when we bought the house.  Walls were an aqua color, the cabinets and hardware painted white, as well as the top of the cabinet.  Another change is that there is a toilet in the corner.  This was added about 15 years ago by previous owners.  It wasn’t a bad idea- creating a 2nd floor bathroom.  But when we moved the laundry upstairs, we created a space for a powder room, thus freeing up the butler’s pantry to be toilet free.  Another feature to point out are the tired old linoleum floors.  Probably circa 1990s.  Also notice that the original points on top of the doorway trim is in place.


This room was not as attractive, or as useful as it could be or should be… but we had plans to change all that.

The Powder Room Project:  the little things

I love the big things about our bathroom.. the paneling, the wallpaper, the floors… But I think I love some of the “little things” about the bathroom just as much.


We found this toilet paper holder at the local salvage store. I love it so much . I’m pretty sure I could have looked for hours and spent 10x more money and still not found one that I liked any better.  I paid $15 for this one.  It is in fantastic shape!


Next we turned our eyes towards the door hardware.  It is almost 100% covered in paint throughout the house.  What was underneath was pretty much a mystery.

IMG_3843I had been so excited to try stripping the hardware in the 1980’s crockpot I picked up for just this task.


And it worked like a charm.  I just used water and turned it to high for a few hours.  This is what the hardware looked like when it came out.


And this is what happened when we scrubbed it ever so slightly with steel wool.  I had NO IDEA we had copper finished hardware.  I can’t believe that someone painted this!


HELLO!?!?!  Why would you ever paint this?????


It amazes me that even our Victorian (which, is not super fancy) had such beauful, detailed hinges on the doors.  These details make me think of Louisa Delong, the original lady of the house.  I am certain she was the one in charge of picking the hardware, and I just love that it has flowers.  

Next up!  A light!  Originally, there was a (non original) light fixture above the door that led to the powder room.  We decided we’d prefer a light in the ceiling, and so we pulled that fixture out and patched the wall.  And then we were SO HAPPY because it meant we HAD to make a trip to the local salvage shop.  This is SO MUCH better and exciting that a trip to the local Big Box Store.


So many options, but in the end, we chose the porcelain fixture and shaek on the right.


Isn’t it lovely?

The next detail to mention is the picture rail.  Our house had a lot of picture rail when it was built- there is a tell-tale grey smudgy line around many of the rooms.  Someday soon, we are going to add it back to the library and living room.  We had a little of some rail that was salvaged from our (you guessed it) local salvage shop, and we used it in this room.  It was quite bowed, and Lance swears that he won’t go through that again… we will probably have the rail for  future use freshly milled.


I think the brown softens up the charcoal very nicely.  And it was crucial for hiding our flawed wall-paper hanging 🙂


And it ties the antique mirror in very well.  And check out that coppery door hinge.  

And that’s a wrap!  At least until I hang some pictures and find just the right piece to hold toilet paper and hand towels in the corner.

We stood back and admired our work, more than I may care to admit… but then we quickly moved on to an equally exciting project , next door in the butler’s pantry.



The Powder Room Project: The Sink, Towel Bar and Mirror

Oh, I just looove a vintage sink.  Beautiful, imperfect, and so much cheaper than a new one.  We found the sink we used for the powder room over a year ago.


When we bought it, it was missing faucet handles and eusctcheons.


The guy we bought it from (for $40) told us it would be no problem to find those missing pieces.  He was wrong.  Handles, no probelm.  Eusctcheons?  It turned out they are one and a million and finding the exact one to fit our sink was just about impossible.  Trust us.  We looked for them here:


Bauer Brother Salvage in Minneapolis.  If we were going to find our eusctcheons, it would have been here.

So, instead of spending $200+ on an entirely new faucet, we decided to find an entirely new vintage sink!  You have to be patient with things like this, but eventually,  you find just what you need:  Another vintage sink for cheap!


Now we had two- turns out they were long lost twins!


This picture was taken after we switched out the faucets.  We thought the old sink was in slightly better condition, so we just moved the handles and euscteons from the new to the old.  Easy!

Once they switcheroo had taken place, I had to clean up the bottom of the sink:


Before cleaning


After a good scrubbing and sanding


It’s nice to know when your sink’s birthday is.  This one is almost exactly 1 year older than my dad.

Next was painting the bottom with Ben Moore’s Advance paint in black.

Then we hung it on the wall!


There she is, in all of her beautiful imperfection.


Now for something for the towels to hang on.  By some miracle, what I believe to be the original towel bar was hanging by the refrigerator in our kitchen (tucked right in by the wall, where it was basically unusable and hidden).  We pried it off and stripped it!IMG_3816


This is so exciting!


Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL!  It is so simple and so perfect.

Next up was a mirror for above the sink.  It turns out my friend/neighbor was cleaning out his attic last fall and found this mirror.  “Do you want it?” he asked?  “It’s free.”  Ummmm…. Yes.


That will do.

After all that, all that was left was to find some $3 hand towels and TJ Maxx and call it done.


The Powder Room Project: Wallpaper

We could have painted the newly repaired walls above our new paneling, but I felt that instead, the room was demanding wallpaper.  The house, of course was once completely covered in wallpaper- even the ceilings in some rooms!  I am very grateful to a previous owner for stripping it off of most of the rooms- she tells me she round 10 layers!  I have found evidence of it in other rooms- and even though I dread stripping if some day, I am also thankful to get to see what was once chosen for this special home so many, many years ago.


I ordered some wallpaper samples from Aesthetic Interiors, and waited with bated breath for them to arrive.  Sadly, when they finally did I was disappointed.  They just seemed too dark.  I then turned to our local paint and decorating store for ideas:  Here are some of the finalists:


I was ALMOST ready to order the gold floral on the right, but then when I put it up to a facebook poll, the little sample on the top right completely dominated…


Here is is enlarged.  It is “Chenonceau” by Schumacher in charcoal gray.  Once I saw this picture, I knew it was just the show-stopping print that I was hoping to find.  I love how even though it is an old fashioned print, it has a modern feel to it too.  Which, I think, make it perfect for our project.

I had never wall papered before, and it was really stressful for me to think about doing.  This wall paper was NOT inexpensive.  I wasn’t sure how much left over I would have, and I did NOT want to mess this room up.

Luckily, I have a mother-in-law who is very experienced in hanging wallpaper.

We definitely had our shakre of mistakes, but thankfully the pattern is forgiving, and I learned how to patch like a pro.  The good news is that the average joe would never see the mistakes.  The bad news is that I know where they ALL ARE!

Before I post some pictures of the finished product, I will offer some wallpapering advice from me, a wallpapering novice whose first job went kind of ok:

  1. Make sure your walls are smooth.  I did not want to take any chance what soever that this wallpaper would not stick.  So, I put a skim coat of join compound over the textured walls to smooth them out.  It didn’t take very long, and it made a huge difference.IMG_3792
  2. When your walls are clean and smooth, apply wallpaper “sizing.”  It is basically primer.  I have no idea why it is called “sizing.”
  3. Have a buddy- while my mother in law cut, I pasted the walls and she helped me hold the paper while I got it lined up.  Also, when we made mistakes, we told each other that is was “ok” and “no big deal.” (even though we both knew it wasn’t really, but what were we going to do anyways?)
  4. Use picture molding or crown moulding on top!  This way, when we ended and nothing was level, we hid it with salvaged picture rail and no one’s the wiser (except me… who happens to be the worst person to know this information…)

The first couple of sheets going up!!  Isn’t it stunning??


The final corner, when the pattern did not meet up and we couldn’t do anything about it.  This is because we did not draw a plumb line after each corner.  Lesson learned.  It is totally noticeable if you know about it , but otherwise, I think the pattern is busy enough that you your eye wouldn’t be drawn to it if you were just a guest who needed to pee…IMG_3799

This is another look with a sneak peak at the salvaged picture rail we used on top.  IMG_3814

This is me after ~10 hours of wallpapering…so happy it is as beautiful as I’d hoped and dreamed, and so happy that it is done.IMG_3797


The Powder Room Project: The Walls!

The walls in the room-that-was-to-be-the-powder-room were really rough.  On one wall, 127 years of paint were separated from the plaster, due to past years of water damage (the wall was directly below the 2nd floor toilet).  At some point, a previous homeowner had sprayed some pretty good texture on the walls and ceiling as well.  I’m sure it hid a lot, but it wasn’t the look I was going for.

Step 1 was scraping off the loose paint, and then using joint compound to bridge the gap between the paint and raw plaster.  Of course there were also cracks and holes to repair.  To get rid of the texture, I just put a skim coat of joint compound over the walls.  It didn’t take long and really did the job.  The walls were not perfectly smooth, but pretty close.

Step 2 was to finalize what we wanted to do with the walls.  Because they were in rough shape, and because it was such a small, tall room, I wanted to break up the walls with some molding.  The kitchen and butler’s pantry have typical wainscoting 1/3 up the wall, but we wanted to do something a bit different.  I thought about paneling like this:

but I decided that it was too formal for what I wanted the room to look like, and also for our house in general.  We found this really helpful website: http://englishpanelling.com/

It gave us some great ideas of different styles of paneling, and helped us to settle on this one:

This style is called “Georgian.”  We liked how it is similar to our wainscoting, but is a little dressier, in our opinion.

Lance made the paneling out of MDF board, and we decided to make the panels 5.5″ wide.  We removed the original quarter round, mop board and cap and scraped and sanded it.  We were missing some cap, and were thrilled to find some identical cap at the local salvage shop.

We also removed the trim board that originally hung about 1/2 way up the wall, and cleaned that up as well.  We were missing some of it too, but found just what we needed from a neighbor, who was removing some from his house.  If you are restoring/ renovating an old house, here’s a tip:  GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS!!


All of the bits and pieces, ready to be cleaned up and repainted.



This photo shows the damage to the walls that we had to contend with


The paneling went up and looked great.  It was Lance’s first time doing this, so of course it isn’t perfect, but we are ok with that!

Finally, it was time for the fun to start: making things pretty.  I chose the paint color “Alabaster” by Sherwin Williams for the trim.  I had always read about this color being “the perfect white.”  Well, I can tell you that it is true!  It is just such a pretty, creamy, milky white color.  I just love it.


So we have our dreamy paneling up, but 1/3 of the walls stood bare.  Next post:  WALLPAPER

Powder Room Project: The Floor!

My original plan for the floors of the powder room was to do black hexagonal tile.  But, after a little more thought, we decided that we should really try to see what the original floors were like.  I really like the idea of showcasing as much as possible, what original features of the house remain.  After taking up the 1990s linoleum and subfloor, pine plank flooring was revealed.


At the bottom of this this photo- the wider planks for the powder room. The top shows that the floors of the adjoining butler’s pantry are narrower. I wonder why? Maybe it was a way to show that the butler’s pantry was a “fancier” room than the room that is now my powder room?

Here is what the floors looked like once sanded:


There were a few rotten boards to the top left of this picture (which corresponded to the rotten box sill on the exterior that we replaced early on in our ownership). We were able to use planks salvaged from our upstairs bathroom project last year. As you can see, there were also a few damaged spots towards the center of the floor that needed to be replaced. Also, there was some darker areas in the middle of the floor.. possibly water staining?

If we had just put a clear coat of poly over the floors like this, we would have ended up with a very rustic looking finish.  We decided to stain them, to see if we could get a more uniform look.  While I was working one day, Lance picked out the stain and went to work.  You know something is up when you walk through the door and your husband greets you with the words “don’t freak out.”

Here is what the floor looked like:


Eeeek!!! they are SO DARK! WAAAAAY darker than we had discussed.


It turns out, pine can be a bit unpredictable.  In the corner where my husband tested out the stain, it happened to be a patch that took it much lighter, leading him to think it was the one we wanted.

This is the color of the stain compared to the floors


After the initial shock, we started to warm up to the idea of dark, espresso colored floors.  We figured that with a couple coats of high gloss poly, they mighty look really dressy and cool.  Also, we kind of has no other choice, except to cover them up with tile.

The wide planks had really big gaps between them, which gave us a chance to apply a technique to fill them that I was really excited bout.  The exciting them about it to me, is it is so simple and old fashioned:

Here is a video on the process.  Basically, you get some rope, stain it and the stuff it between the joints.

Here is a picture of  Lance in action:

IMG_3692The last thing to do to the floors was poly.  We put two coats of high gloss polyurethane.  Here’s the finished product!


Not what we planned, but sometimes the accidents that happen along the way can end up being the best parts of a project!