Friday, December 22, 2006

Santa's Coming

I can't let the holiday go by without wishing all the housebloggers that continue to inspire and amaze a very Merry Christmas. And of course, to anyone who reads about us and our antics here.
I hope everyone does exactly what we are all supposed to do on the holidays, put your feet up and RELAX.
Happy Holidays to all!
Steve & Jocelyn

Monday, December 18, 2006

Some Small Improvements

This weekend, we finally got to do some things on the first floor, one of which was replacing the sad Charlie Brown light in our bedroom.

We had another fixture, but it shorted out a while back and we never bothered to rewire it. I'll probably sell it on eBay at some point. What you see at left is what we've had there for about a year.

We decided on the Grant Court a ceiling mounted fixture from Rejuvenation. I actually like my bedroom now. I truly believe that holes in walls are bad for one's psyche. The only reason I believe this is because when we eliminate them, I inexplicably feel better.

I also installed the rustic shelves I ordered from Wisteria this summer.

Our bedroom is not very big. Someday, when we refinish the basement, we may create a master suite downstairs. To tell the truth, that's a ways off. We have to save some money for that project.

I used the shelves to display my collection of finials.

I also installed some hooks in my closet, installed a new door stop in our bedroom, and did some more clearing in the yard. I've been doing it in stages this year.

It's nice to finally have time to work on "little"-er projects in the first floor now that we have people living upstairs.

Footnote: Yesterday I came home and told Steve the entry smelled like paint. I realized that it was probably the marine varnish I had applied Saturday (to the threshold). Steve just told me that last night he had a nightmare that the tenants painted the entire apartment white but not the trim. Ah, the joy and serenity of being a paranoid landlord.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

So Long 2nd Floor...

The day has finally arrived. Our tenants worked things out and we decided to let them move in with a month to month lease. In case you don't know, this kind of lease requires only 30 days notice to vacate on either side. We feel safer this way. The one roommate is going to help the other financially until they find a permanent job. We are hoping for the best, but even their permanent lease only goes till August 31st so we are not locked in for long. It would behoove them to behave if they want to stay here- we've clearly communicating the tolerances in the building- now it's up to them.
They moved in Thursday. I left them a box of Frango mints and a Christmas card- trying to start off on a positive note. So far they haven't ackowledged the gift, but like I told Steve, I am all about my side of the street. I did good by giving a gift. What they do- that is their karma not mine!

I thought I'd take this time to say a long awaited "so long" to the second floor. It's been unoccupied for 7 months and I hope J & W can make it a home. We did our part to make it homey-just take a look.

Cast iron Hunter ceiling fan- made to last a lifetime.

Unlacquered polished brass sconces from Rejuvenation. The unlacquered brass will age to a fine patina (we hope).

Wood blinds were pretty costly, so we opted for sheers from Target hemmed to fit the dining and living room windows.

The bedrooms have black out roller shades with fringe.

To make things last, you have to build them right. We added door stops wherever needed to protect the walls and woodwork.

Before, there were cheap hardware store plates and knobs covered in layers of paint. What on earth happened to the originals I wonder? At least they kept the original doors though.

We replaced all the hardware with real vintage hardware.

We stripped and waxed the original hex tile floor. It's not perfect, but it looks fine I think.

I can't not mention Steve's custom medicine cabinet.

And Steve buffed all the grout haze off as well as sealing the tile.

Not much to look at, but for what it's worth we sanded, filled and repainted the three radiator covers. We also coated them with poly to make the finish last (hopefully) longer.

Cast iron brackets and solid oak shelving in the pantry.

Granite counter top, tiled backsplash, vented to the outside microwave, and new energy efficient appliances.

I'm happy we had most of the original hinges and they are 100 years old and still going strong. Where we needed to, we got replacements from Jan's Antiques.

I photocopied all the instructions for the appliances.

It's always a little project getting the keys ready. Steve engraves them all too. Have I told you he's a perfectionist lately?

Billie says "bye" too. Wish us luck!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gift Idea for the Preservationist

What could be more tragically romantic than dying while trying to save remnants from a beautiful & historic Adler & Sullivan building slated to be demolished?

This is "what Richard Nickel did", when he fell through the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange and was buried in the rubble in 1972.

If this intrigues you, I suggest you check out "Richard Nickel's Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City." Here you will see the collected photos by Richard Nickel. His collection includes candid photos of Chicagoans of all types from diverse neighborhoods and of course, photos of amazing buildings that were leveled in the name of progress.

The destruction of the Garrick Theater (see photos) to make way for of all things a parking lot made me gasp out loud. Ironically, the site is the location of the new Goodman Theater.

On the day after his body was discovered, a Chicago Sun-Times editorial cartoon honored him with a drawing of a gravestone with the epitaph:

Richard Nickel
Killed in Action
rescuing Chicago architectural treasures

and from the man himself:

"What a fool I must be. Why am I horsing around, moving the stones from one warehouse to another, while everybody else is making a dandy living, have their own lives and apartments and houses, etc.? It's even a problem for me to buy a car." (Sound familiar anyone?)


"Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Charming old Victorian saved from wrecking ball

About a year ago, I posted about a lovely Victorian home in my neighborhood that was in danger of teardown. Alot of wood was exposed and going to rot. I knew if something wasn't done soon, it was destined for the wrecking ball.
Well, I'm happy to report that this house was actually downzoned so that no condos could be built on the land, and as a result the owners opted to do a quick and expedient fix-up job. It has not been what I would call lovingly restored, but it has been preserved.

Wood has been painted. Not quite the quality of work we see over at Petch House, but at least the wood is now protected. I peeked inside (no one lives there yet) and the original wood staircase is intact and was apparently refinished. It has those great high ceilings and beautiful oak floors throughout.

There's something about frame houses that really says "home" to me in such a romantic way. In that "It's a Wonderful Life" way-- you know? Remember when George wants to throw the top piece of the staircase post because it keeps coming off? And he says to Mary, "Why do we have to live in this drafty old barn of a house?" And then at the end of the movie, the house is filled with people and music?

We live in a brick home, which is practical in our climate, but these old frame homes evoke thoughts of building a fire and eating a family dinner in the dining room, and tiptoeing down a creaky staircase after tucking the kids in. It's funny because I've never lived in a home like that but I have all these ideas about what it would be like. Maybe it's all the old movies I've watched so many times. What's your favorite memory (real or imagined) of "home"?

But back to our charming Victorian. Now all it needs is for the right people to come along and take it to the next level. A houseblogger waiting to happen. If you're interested, here's my earlier post about it from before. I've been keeping my eye on this one for a while.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The life of a landlord is filled with trials and tribulations...

The mums are dead and our tenants have fallen through. One of them lost their job and is backing out. This is probably for the best and I don't really blame her. If I was living at home and lost my job and I had the choice between the hellish stress of finding a job and moving at the same time or staying put, I'd opt for the first choice.

Still, it's a bit of a bitter pill right now. We do have a deposit from them, which we can't give back, but we will probably let them out of the lease once we verify that she has in fact lost her job and is not just "wimping out". If she is lying, we will require her to pay for advertising. We still wouldn't hold her to the lease because we don't need liars in our building.

I feel fairly bummed about this and so I am going to do whatever I feel like doing this weekend. I will probably use some of my x-mas bonus to go shopping for clothes. I will wear pajamas till noon. I will walk my dogs. And I will allow myself to feel a little sorry for myself because I have earned that right.

It's funny, but writing about problems on the blog always makes them more poignant to me. It somehow makes them have a bit more meaning. Does anyone else feel this way? It's like my life becomes a story that might be interesting to read about and that makes it not seem so random and pointless.

I really need to buy my lap top so I can start writing that novel I have always wanted to write. I have a number of subjects already in mind for different books. I've started before, but I just can't bring myself to sit at a desk all night after sitting at one all day. I am going to be a couch-writer not a desk writer. It's winter and it's time.

And regarding the photo of the torch, in case my meaning isn't clear, I mean to communicate that the fire hasn't gone out here at the 2-flat. A little bump in the road like this won't take the wheels of our wagon. We've built it to last.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Problem Solving: Patching a Damaged Veneer

So you have an old door and it's in pretty good shape, but the veneer has cracked off in a few places. How do you repair it?

I'm sure there is more than one way to accomplish this type of repair. This is just what we did and it worked pretty well, so I thought I'd share. I really think much of DIY work is made up of logical steps and if you can problem-solve and consult the appropriate resources for information, one can accomplish quite alot. It's comforting to me to think in terms of steps- it keeps things from being overwhelming.

First thing we did was square off the damaged area for patching. It would be next to impossible to cut a piece of veneer to fit jagged edges like this and if you match up the lines on the veneer, the patch will blend even better.

Then we cut out the area using a straight edge and razor knife. We carefully removed the cut out area for patching.

After measuring the area, we cut the piece out of the rolled veneer using a razor knife. Next we tested the fit.

The oak veneer we had was only 1/4" and the veneer on the door was thicker. What to do?

Our solution was to use wood filler to build up the thickness and then place the patch atop a bed of wood filler.

Here we were checking the fit of our precisely measured patch.

We leveled off the wood filler for placing the patch.

Then we carefully placed the patch trying to keep the level of the patch in line with the door panel.

After drying time, which is blessedly short with wood filler, we sanded the area using 100, then 120 grit and a finishing sander.

The end result? A damaged door is solvent again and the patch is barely noticable to the eye after staining. We learned after repairing this door, that if you can match up the veneer grain, your patch will be even more seamless. We've since done this patch a few times and are happy with the results.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Quite Strange

I was walking through our dining room today and noticed this vase of mums from the garden. They were the last of the flowers and I cut them for Thanksgiving. Mums tend to last a while.

What struck me as strange was that everything outside is now completely and utterly dead. We got several inches of snow this week and things have gotten decidedly colder. Overnight all the remaining growing things just dropped dead on the spot.

Yet here I have this little bunch saved from Jack Frost. How long will they last?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Weekend Recap

As previously reported, Steve installed the stairway railing this weekend. Nothing fancy, but we improved on what was there in that he made the railing in two pieces instead of four (what was there) and we used all oak rather than a mix of pine and oak. And we used better hardware.

Unfortunately the metal angles Steve was planning to also use to reinforce the connection on the angles did not want to cooperate. Suffice it to say, there was some cursing and crabbiness and ultimately the railing went up without them. At one point I said to Steve, "Can you lower your standards maybe a little?"

And here is Steve buffing out the grout haze. This buffing pad worked but it was still a tiring job.

While Steve was fighting with the railing on Friday, I was busy on my holiday decorations. It was about 60 degrees outside and I thought that was a good time to be outside stringing some lights. It's hard to get a good photo though.

I love the oversize more old fashioned bulbs. I used to be an all white light gal, but not anymore.

And what do dogs do on Thanksgiving? Why, they sit and wait for the turkey to be done of course.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I have been somewhat remiss on blogging lately. It's probably due to the change in seasons and having such an all-involving project as the 2nd floor winding down to completion. Believe it or not, we still have a few things to do up there.

Steve installed the stairway railing this weekend and it was a real bear of a project. We used a drill attachment with a buffing pad to buff the grout haze off the bathroom tile. One of those things our contractor should have done, but we didn't notice it until he was gone. It was kind of a "rats!" moment when we realized that and as you can see we procrastinated it for a while.

I worked on cleaning up the basement more and various small and sundry tasks. All that remains to be done upstairs is to clean and wax the bathroom floor and replace the broken mirror in the medicine cabinet. Oh, and we still need to break down the drying rack in the garage.

It's amazing how many little things we had on our punch list. Everything from polyurethaning window sills and shelving to caulking the holes around the radiator pipes to installing a paper towel holder to installing a dimmer switch and on and on. Steve kept adding to it. He's really a perfectionist and he sometimes suffers for it. I know he's really glad to be done with this project. I was over it 3 weeks ago!

Anyway, I have some great news to report and that is that we have found our tenants and they signed the lease on Tuesday! They will be moving in mid-December. They really seem to appreciate the apartment and we are hoping it will work out well. I have a good feeling and I suspect that karma-wise we are due for a better experience than the last one.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Angie's List Membership Pays Off

Not only were we able to source some good contractors through the list, but I submitted 15+ reports in October and qualified for a free camera!

Since I already have a digital camera, I'm planning to gift this one for x-mas. One less gift to buy and to think home improvement paid for it!

Now if only I would win that Plasma TV they are giving away... I really think I deserve it big time don't you?

On another note, my review of Chicago Woodstripping was featured in their monthly email newsletter.

Description of Work:
We hired Darrell to strip 100 years accumulation of paint off 1800 linear feet of wood trim from the 2nd floor of our 2-flat as well as 3 window frames and 9 two panel oak doors.

Member Comments: We were extremely happy with the job Darrell did. His price was reasonable and he finished this tedious and time consuming work on time for our project. In fact, we were so pleased with the job, we gave him a $300 bonus when he was done. All of the wood had not one speck of paint on it when returned. Due to dip stripping (the method he uses) we did have some boards get a bit warped and some joints on doors were loosened, but this is to be expected with this method. He will also strip wood in place in your home as well. Darrell is a good guy and he is doing a huge service by helping save old architectural elements from the garbage heap! Perhaps best of all, we were able to put back the original coffered ceiling beams (see photo).

So, overall we are happy with Angie's List. We didn't get any BAD contractors off the site. Things were not perfect with all of the one's we hired, and we won't rehire some of them, but overall we did pretty well. I'm going to add them as a resource on my sidebar, because we really do use them and I've shared information with others successfully as well.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Getting Back to Normal

At the end of May, we moved Steve's office from the basement to our dining room for the post replacement. Truth be told, I never liked him working down there. We have asbestos piping still and I felt relieved having him out of there.

The dining room got even more cluttered when we moved everything out of our den (for gutting) and into it as well. It was one of those cases where you kind of have a pathway through a room and no longer have a room. It was kind of embarrassing to me so I never posted a photo of the mess. The picture here was taken on a good day, when our dining room table was clear of any clutter.

This weekend we got our dining room back. We kind of need it for Thanksgiving, it was just in time. The table in the corner is only a temporary side table for Thanksgiving. We had to keep my desk there also because of limited space in the den. Eventually, we are hoping to build a longer desk in the den and fit my workstation there also. Or maybe I'll get a laptop and we won't need this desk anymore!

We moved Steve's office into the den. We still need to install picture molding and hang pictures in there and some of the furniture etc... is only temporary, but it's not too bad for a temporary solution.

Things feel alot more organized now and I'm breathing easier.