Wednesday, September 28, 2005

2-flat conversion

I have talked here about Steve's idea to add a 3rd floor to our building. Well, after some discussion, we've decided not to pursue it at this time. It just feels like too much. We've decided instead to renovate the 2nd floor after our tenants lease is up. They have the option to leave at the end of May (cross your fingers) or else end of July (boohoo). Maybe we'll just ask them to leave early. We have done alot of favors for them and they owe us.

Along with updating the upstairs, which will involve pretty much a gut rehab that we will hire out, we are planning to have some work done on our building including the following: tuckpointing, new back porch, back yard fence and some other small things. The goal is to get our building to a point where we can focus a bit more on other interests and that is why we are planning to bite the bullet and get this work done.

Anyway, for interest, I thought I'd show you the only 2-flat converted to a 3-flat that we have found so far. Well, of course there are the nasty frame additions on stone buildings but those don't count because we would never do that.

This one was handled by a Chicago architect that we contacted, but never met with. There are details and photos of the project on this website under Projects-Chicago-Ashland. They did this one way better than many others, but I still don't like it. The "stone" on top tries to match the accents on the building, although the 1st floor stone accents are painted white, but it just doesn't quite look believable.

What would your rating on this 3rd story addition be on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst?

I think if they got the paint off those accents and had matching windows on the entire building as well as changing the color on the porch, it could look better, but we wouldn't want our building to look this way. They did splurge on common brick sides to the building so it matches very well.

My new rule: one floor at a time.

Here's what that building looked like originally :

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Where once there was darkness

now there is light. Wish I could say where I was blind, now I see, but I don't feel that close to that kind of light right now.

I've been quite remiss in posting. We had a busy past week or so. We had my Dad's two border collies again, two neighborhood meetings, two rounds of flyering for neighborhood meetings, a petition to get signed and then my birthday last Thursday. Whew.

But even with all the extras going on, we did work on Saturday and completed the kitchen shelving. We installed the lights under the shelves and Steve added the missing pieces so now that project is completely done.

Then, on Sunday, we mosied on over to Jan's Salvage & Antiques. This place is like heaven to folks like us. It's overwhelming. All the doors, hardware, bathroom fixtures, and architectral elements are just overwhelming.

We found this really interesting brass plaque that we plan to hang on a wall somewhere- haven't figured out where yet. Neither us nor Jan (yes, there is a Jan) knew where it came from. It's brass and very ornate. If you know or have a guess, give a holler. Here's a photo.

It has 5 holes where it must have been bolted to something. We were thinking of hanging it up over a doorway maybe. But maybe that would be tempting fate. I used birthday money to buy it.

I was pleased with myself because I made her an offer for $60 less than what she originally asked and she accepted.

We also went over to our favorite Garden Center --Gethsemane and picked up a plant to liven up that blank corner in our kitchen.

It's called Aglaonema, commonly known as Chinese Evergreen. It likes low or filtered light, which is what we have in that spot.

In addition, Steve finished the mudding of the entry this weekend and is planning to sand and prime this coming weekend. I will probably work on doors and sanding and staining the shoe moulding for the kitchen, which we got at Home Desperate last weekend.

Oh, and we picked paint colors for the entry. I can't find the colors online but they are from Behr and they are called Creme Brulee and Toasted Wheat. We are going to have the original oak trim going around the room at about 5 feet high. The Toasted Wheat, which is kind of a warm light mocha color will be the bottom half of the room and the Creme Brulee, which is a creamy color will be on the top and ceiling. I think it will look nice with the burnished brass fixture we selected too.

Anyway, even when not posting, we are usually keeping the fire burning. Now I need to spend some time catching up on other's blogs!

Monday, September 19, 2005

House update

Steve finished the taping and some mudding. His plan is to finish the mudding this weekend and then sand and prime the walls the following weekend.

Together we installed the under shelf lighting on Sunday and sanded and stained the finishing pieces of trim to hide the lights from view. We didn't get to install them though. Maybe during the week. I am going to wait on the photos until the trim is in though.

I went over all the boards/trim for the entry again and then stained them all. Here they are drying in the backyard.

Thanks everyone for your support on the teardown I posted about yesterday. I emailed my neighborhood pals, the Alderman's office, and Preservation Chicago. Now I just have to follow up with phone calls.

Tonight we went to the CAPs meeting and I got more signatures for my petition . Being a good neighbor sure is hard work.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


I found out on Saturday that the pictured building has been sold to a developer who plans to tear it down and put up 6 condos. I literally felt sick to my stomach.

Steve knows the guy who owns the building. He's a former Loyola University professor and has lived there for over 30 years. His wife is getting arthritis and the stairs are getting to her etc... They are moving to a high-rise in nearby Evanston and I think they plan to travel alot.

This property is on a double lot, which is why the developers want it. They can build their million-dollar-making 6 condos on the land.

As soon as Steve told me, I stopped working (I was staining trim) and walked the block to their house with my camera.
The woman (I don't know her) opened the window as I was taking these photos and asked me what I was doing etc...

A conversation ensued about how I was really upset that this perfectly maintained building was going to be torn down. I won't go into all the details, but from what she said to me, she sounded like she'd been brainwashed by developers. She said things like this:

"No one would want to pay the money to do the work on this place in this neighborhood."

Now, I know you guys will all agree with me on this, that this simply is not true.

"All the other offers we got were $200K less."

Frankly, I think this is an outright lie. I never saw listing signs on the building and believe some developer told her that or maybe a mortgage broker who is in tight with the developers.

"Do you have someone who can buy it?"

sigh. sniffle...

I will do what I can on this one. Call the Alderman, rally the troops, but it may just be too late. But you bet I am going to show up at the perfunctory Meeting the Alderman has regarding this property and give them a jar full of vinegar! I'll let you guys know how it goes.

I'll post on the work done this weekend during the week. Despite this, it was a productive weekend at our house.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

...the beautiful

some of you may remember the earlier posts in the series: The Good , The Bad , and The Ugly . I promised the beautiful and without much further ado, here they are. These are all homes in my neighborhood within a mile of our building, the ones I've walked past and admired again and again. It's amazing how much you can pick up just walking around studying buildings and reading a little bit.

(Disclaimer: I don't pretend to be an expert on architecture, just trying to learn as I go.)

I think it's safe to say this house is Tudor Revival.

Based on English domestic architecture from the 1500s and 1600s, Tudor Revival gained great popularity as a residential style in America during the early 20th century.

Common characteristics are:
steeply pitched gable roofs
use of stucco, particularly in ends of gables
rounded bays and turrets
irregular massing

I'd call the below house a Spanish Revival with some Craftsman influences.

This style is based on Spanish colonial and Mexican buildings that were built in California, Texas and the American Southwest between the early 1600s and the 1840s. The style regained popularity as a revival style during the 1920s.

Common characteristics are:
brick or stucco walls
twisting columns and decorative shields made of terra cotta
round arched windows
elaborately rounded roof parapets based on Spanish colonial missions
clay tile roofs

American Four Sqaure- a nice one!
This post-Victorian style of single-family house, prized for its ease of construction, practicality, and roomy interior, is found throughout Chicago. The largest concentrations are in community areas developed during the style's heyday (1900-1930), such as Beverly, Norwood Park, Rogers Park, and South Shore.

Common characteristics are:
cubic shape
hipped roof, usually with dormers
broad front porch, sometimes enclosed
little use of ornament
built in wide variety of materials, including wood, brick, and stucco

Renaissance Revival (I think)
This house is VERY unique. I haven't seen any other one like it anywhere in the city yet. We like to call it "The mini-Castle House."
The churches and palaces of Renaissance Italy were the inspiration for this revival style. In Chicago, it mainly was used for churches and institutional buildings, between 1890 and 1930

Common characteristics are:
round-arched windows and arcades (i.e., covered walkways or porches, formed by rows of arches resting on columns)
profusion of triangular and round-arched pediments
prominent cornices

Of course, I can't not mention the Frank Lloyd Wright Emil Bach House. It was recently auctioned for $1million dollars.

This falls under Prairie Style.
The Prairie style was developed in the late-19th and early-20th centuries by Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects as "a modern architecture for a democratic American society." Because it was largely developed in the Chicago area, this style is well represented here by some of the most important buildings of the early-20th century. Significant examples can be found in Rogers Park, Hyde Park, and Beverly.

Common characteristics are:
horizontal proportions
flat brick or stucco walls, often outlined with wooden strips of contrasting color
windows with abstract, geometric ornament
hip or gable roofs with wide, overhanging eaves

and these homes are among the reasons I love my neighborhood.

The end.

Monday, September 12, 2005

a taping we will go....

a taping we will go, a taping we will go, Heigh-Ho the merrio, a taping we will go.

I think some of us have owned up to the cheesy songs we've had running through our heads while working. And some of us have asked about what music we listen to while we work.

I myself have admitted to succumbing to Queen's "We are the Champions" when completing stripping a surly and difficult board. Like I've said before, I think it's the fumes.
And better yet, please, someone top me for biggest cheeseball. I think Greg comes close though.

a taping we will go,
a taping we will go,
a taping we will go,
Heigh-Ho the merrio,
a taping we will go.

When it comes to taping I have four words for you, "I don't do it." (haha) Actually the four words are:
"Steel Reinforced Corner Tape." Steve loves it.

a taping we will go,
a taping we will go,
a taping we will go,
Heigh-Ho the merrio,
a taping we will go.

a taping we will go,
a taping we will go,
a taping we will go,
Heigh-Ho the merrio,
a taping we will go.

I asked Steve about the corner tape for the blog and he said and I quote, "Oh, it's over kill, but we do it anyway."

Do you see?! ;o)

Hey, you can't blame me for trying to make taping a bit more interesting.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Inquiring minds

In a recent post, Eric asked the question, "Is the kitchen done?" and "What's on the mysterious other two walls that are not pictured in the "Kitchen Current" link?"

The answer to the first question is yes...and no. The kitchen is close to fully functional with a few exceptions I'll outline here. As to why it isn't completed yet, the answer is these two words: front entry. And yes, it was my bright idea to start this project before finishing the kitchen entirely. I broke the cardinal rule of "one room at a time."

I spent this Saturday working on one of the remaining projects: the back door. Originally, this door was covered in many layers of white paint. I stripped it a while back. We figured there was no sense of fancifying the door until all the messy work was done, so it's been kind of halfway there for a while. I finally got around to the detail sanding of the door this weekend. I pulled out our profile sander, which comes with a multitude of attachments that will match many different profiles. I used three different attachments to sand the door.

Stripped some door hardware while I was at it too.

I then stained parts of the door that were very light to try and even out the tone. Next weekend I'll apply the final coat and then a finish coat after that.

Here's a photo of the door at the beginning:

and here's after being stripped and the way it's been for a while...

and here's what it looks like today after much sanding and partial staining.

The other unfinished project in the kitchen is adding the trim to our shelving and installing the under-shelf lights. Again, reason for the delay: front entry! But Steve did already cut out the pieces. They just need to be sanded down to fit perfectly and then stained to match.

The final item to make our kitchen truly complete will take a bit longer and that will be the built-in shelving units for the pantry. Since the nearby woodshop is closed right now, Steve has to go farther to work on the project and that makes it more time-consuming and less conveneient. With all the projects we have to wrap up in the entry and elsewhere, I am hopeful a completed pantry will be a x-mas present for us.

...and as to Eric's 2nd question, "What's on the mysterious other two walls that are not pictured in the "Kitchen Current" link?" I am going to have to wait on that as this post has gotten kinda long.

Also, this weekend Steve finished hanging drywall in the entry and started taping. I'll do a separate post on that.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Neighborhood Project

Part of what makes our place a home is being part of the community at large. I read this week from That Old House's blog that what she is most sad about is losing is her community that she loved. This week I really felt I knew what she meant.

On Tuesday night at about 7:30pm Steve and I were lounging watching TV reading magazines etc... when we heard this incrediby loud screeching of tires. It's amazing how long that can seem to go on. I found myself bracing for the sound of metal on metal that is inevitable when 2 cars collide, but it didn't happen.

I said to Steve, "Did you hear a crash?" He said he heard a thud, which would not be a good thing. So we went outside to see if everything was okay. Well, it wasn't. There was an old man lying in the street and he had been hit while crossing by a car going about 35-45mph. He was hit so hard that he flew way up in the air from eyewitness accounts. There were at least 30 people gathered waiting for the ambulance and police to arrive. I saw neighbors, some I know and some I don't. I saw friends from the CAPs meetings there. My neighbor Dave stepped in to help calm the driver, who was acting kind of stangely down.

I wish I could tell you the man survived, but he didn't. He was 93 years old and lived in the senior building right there. He was hit right near his building and died an hour later at the hospital. A small little tragedy in our neighborhood. It seems small compared to some others, but it was close to home.

I have always thought there should be stop signs at that corner and this tells me I was right. I have already emailed my neighborhood group and called the Alderman's office. Tonight Steve and I stood out on the corner with our dogs and a petition getting signatures to add stop signs to that intersection. I talked to new condo owners, so-called fringe elements, working people, parents, and even some young "gangbanger" types. Most people signed. And I felt like it was a good thing.

One of our neighborhood watchdogs put a post on his blog about it. He's a good guy, just a little overzealous sometimes. But he cares alot. He is really good at roasting authority figures such as the Police and Alderman and although I don't approach things the same way, I can appreciate what he does.

A neighborhood. A community. A living breathing city. I felt like hanging out on the corner and this being a big city like New Orleans, I could imagine what was lost there a little more.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The crumbling wall

Here's a project we've been putting off for some time. We are bringing in outside help for this one. Our building has what is called a gangway that goes below grade and underneath the bay on the side that houses our bedroom. This bay is supported by a load bearing brick wall that is very deteriorated. It's beyond just re-pointing and 7 courses of bricks are spalled.

The time has come for us to get this done so we can keep sleeping peacefully on the strength of this wall. The last quote we had for this job was $1250.00. Steve is working on getting more quotes.

Here's a close-up shot showing the extent of the deterioration:

As you can see the wall is smack dab ON the property line. Of course, this is just the kind of issue one would want to address if one was thinking of say, adding a third story to their building (ejem).

In that arena, Steve didn't do much last week as he was busy with work-work. But the week before, he met with 3 architects and a builder to get their insights on the project. Next week, we are supposed to meet with an architect who actually converted a Chicago 2-flat into a 3-flat.

Some of the ideas these people had were to set back the third floor so it would not show from the street and then there wouldn't be such an issue with blending the 3rd story with the building as a whole. They also had an idea to have a large front deck/porch on the top floor. We aren't sure about any of these ideas, but they were interesting.

In case you aren't clear on what a pass thru type gangway is, here are some photos from the backyard at left and coming from the front side below.

This view is coming from the front side of the building.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The walls have...walls

We are about 2/3 done drywalling the entry/vestibule. We would have been able to finish, if we didn't have all the insulating and framing to finish I am sure.

In case you haven't done it, framing brick walls is a real "challenge"(I can think of some less kind euphemisms but I'll leave those to your imagination). Steve handles this part of the job because my womanly arms just don't have the strength.

The good news is that all the oak trim has been filled and sanded smooth. I love clean wood! I also glued up the few cracked boards. My personal preference is to reuse old boards with cracks rather than replace them. I like the feeling of the 100 year old wood and the grains are so straight on them.

Steve ever secure in his manhood, seen below wearing my old cut off shorts with cute patches. They were loose on me too.

But it cracks me up that he walks around like this.
We don't really care what we look like while we are working.
Notice I didn't post photos of me though...

Here's the remaining wall, which we'll get to next weekend. I also took care of some small jobs like repairing some gouges we made in our kitchen walls while installing molding and sealing the grout in the kitchen.

Oh, and one last thing. I found our first artifact in the ceiling over the living room. It was these bottles:

The text on the bottle reads: Property of Independent BR C ASSN Chicago. Haven't had time to reserach it at all. The back reads: This Bottle Not To Be Sold.

Hope everyone had a good weekend. The weather was absolutely beautiful here, low 80's, sunny, clear, low humidity. At least we spent time outside, but it would have been a great weekend for hiking or camping. Next summer we plan to work every other weekend only or less so we can do more things like that.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Off the Blog

I, like many others have been off-blog- transfixed by what's going on in New Orleans, Biloxi, and surrounding areas. I am sad too that I never got to New Orleans before this happened.

It does put things in perspective and know that what we consider living without comforts, really is pretty darn comfortable after all.

It makes me really sad that many people have lost everything they had. It especially bothers me about the people had little or nothing to begin with.

We will be working on the house this weekend, but I will be praying for everyone there while working. I have actually been dreaming about New Orleans it's so much on my mind.

I also found what happened in Iraq this week really tragic. Seeing all those grown men bawling their eyes out in grief on TV moved me alot. Just had to mention it.