Thursday, December 20, 2007

Doe a Door

It look longer than we thought and planned (of course), but Steve managed to get the door installed the first week in December.

It looks good, way better than the old door, and best of all, it won't fall apart!

It would have been better, much better, if we had started the project earlier. Upon removing the old door, we were not surprised to see that some masonry repair was needed-especially on the arch over the door. Masonry work cannot be done when it's (ejem), freezing outside.
So, to make a long story not so long, I'll just say that come Spring, we have to disassemble the door and repair the brick work as well as remake some of the trim because it's not fitting "perfectly" (translation: less than 1/8"). Things must be perfect for the ARTIST Steve you know. :o)

There is nothing I cherish more, you know, than doing a job over especially because we have nothing else better to do (cough cough ejem).

Here is the threshold. Steve managed to repair the concrete on a not so cold afternoon in November. The door has two coats of oil based primer and 2 coats of Bunglehouse Blue paint(also oil).

We plan to build an overhang above the door to protect it from the elements. I think it will be very charming.

We used old hardware from our house that we painted with industrial enamel paint- about 5 coats! We mean business.

Oh, and we added a deadbolt. We will be adding an iron grate on the inside to deter any burglars too. The first one we ordered didn't fit!

My favorite thing about the new door is the window panes. And you can see when the garage is left open now too from the inside of our house.

I am looking forward to restoring the adjacent windows on the garage and having a nice cottage look in the back yard next summer.
Next up: Finishing the pantry

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Please sir canna I have another?

What is it with me and the bad canna jokes anyway? I guess it's because I feel like a real die hard out in the yard in November chopping down 7' tall canna plants and then digging the bulbs up to store for the winter in our basement.

It's a job, that's for sure. This year I had expanded my canna beds and had planted them in three different locations- two in the backyard and one on our parkway. Why do I mention this? Because the thing with cannas is that every year that you plant them, you get more.

If only I could make my money grow that fast. Then I could afford to pay someone to take care of this mildly backbreaking garden chore.

Seriously, they probably at least tripled in quantity this year. As I was digging them up, I just laughed with amazement at these prolific plants and the abundance of healthy bulbs I pulled from the ground. Kind of a delirious laughter if you know what I mean.

In past years, I've given some to my Mom for her yard, and some to a few co-workers. My neighbor and many other noticeably sane people don't want them "because they are too much work."

Now who else can I give them to? Do you know anyone? Who do I know that isn't afraid of hard work?

Oh, I know!! Next March, I am going to offer them up to you housebloggers. I am going to propagate my cannas all over the globe. World domination through cannas, that's the ticket.

Okay, I'm going to rest now. I have a massive turkey dinner to cook this week. Thanks for sticking with me.

p.s. 2nd coat of primer put on garage door Saturday. Two more to go before Thanksgiving. It wouldn't be so bad if we could work indoors, but the oil paint is way too stinky for that. Also, we have some red color (tanin or some stain embedded in the wood) bleeding through the primer on the door so we have to do a coat of stain blocker. Yes, stuff happens.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Last Ditch Effort

We are determined to get the new (salvaged and restored) garage door in this year. Mark my words.

I've been busy and remiss on blogging, but over the past weeks we have accomplished the following on our lovely salvage find:

Steve built a completely new door jamb with an arched header. He made it out of pressure treated lumber as it will be outside and painted.

I scraped the one layer of paint off the door, sanded it. We installed the hinges.

We hung the door inside the jamb. I am proud to say we have a completely pre-hung door that Steve made from scratch.

Steve fabricated replacement muntins for the window panes (several were missing) at the Loyola Park woodshop.

We still have to go to the locksmith and buy the lock and put it in. Then, we have to hang the door and install the locks.

All this in November! Chilly chill!

Last Saturday, Steve & I spent the whole day outdoors working on the hinges and getting the right fit with the planer etc... Our neighbors on either side were outside working too...for a few hours. Not like us cuckoos out there from 9am till 5pm. But by God, we'll get it done!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Last year I posted about our scary basement for Halloween. I wish I could tell you it's not scary anymore, but I'm afraid that wouldn't be true.

We have decided that this Spring when we get our tax refund it will go for asbestos abatement in the basement. So a decision has been made to spend the cash, which is some progress.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

And Mindy & Teague-love the costume idea!

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I am a big fan of what I call "puttering around the house." The thing is, a day spent puttering can actually be alot of work. Fall and Spring are my favorite times to putter. The weather is conducive to wearing layers and going in and out of the basement and yard.

This weekend, Steve and I decided not to work on the pantry. So, I thought I'd take care of some odds and ends while Steve worked away at his day job.

So while doing a few loads of laundry, I gave my house plants a shower in the kitchen sink.

Then, I dead headed the mums in the front yard, shop vacuumed the back stairwell. Vacuumed and dusted the front stairs and entry. Swept the front porch and washed the windows.

Next I decided to repaint the two radiator covers that had gotten scuffed up and have been annoying me for a while. After that I mowed the law and fertilized the front and back lawns. Then I decided to launder the shower curtains in the bathroom.

I took the recycling out to the garage (We have to bring our recycling in to a center as the city's program STINKS).

Time to bring in the hoses, which I also did. And (with Steve's help) put away the air conditioners in the first floor and uninstalled the monster a/c in the tenants unit.

As we were carrying the big a/c down to the basement, I said to Steve, "What are we going to do when we get old?" Steve assured me we would have something figured out by then.

Then, I decided I should paint the trim around the outside of our pantry window. So, I deglossed it and quickly sanded it and painted it.

At about 3 o'clock I stopped and thought to myself, "wow, I'm turning into a whirling dervish here and I have plans tonight. I better ease up."

So, I saved the pumpkin carving for today. I don't know why I love being a busy bee like this. I think I'm very results oriented. I like doing things that have a tangible outcome and the house fulfills that quite nicely it seems.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Place to hang

That's what a front porch is. Two flats often have them and it isn't so uncommon to find people sitting on their steps on a nice evening watching life go by.

Of course, we'd love to put a 2-level wood wrap around porch on our building. This is what I believe was originally there. But there's this thing called money, and we're not made of it.

So we took off the aluminum awning, which was most definitely not period and added a cloth awning, which we like much better. Cloth awnings go way back. It's perhaps not the "ultimate" solution, but it's also not something that muddles the building too badly and we like it, which is what matters.

Perhaps someday we will do something different with our front porch, after many other things are done. And in the interest of that, I started looking at the different types of porches on two-flats. There's quite alot of variety, wood, stone, and brick. Some look better than others.

But one should bear in mind that the two-flat is often of humble origins. There are grander ones, but there are many that are just average and were most definitely built for the working middle class.

Here you see what looks to be an original overhang or at least close to what may have been there.

This one looks to be either rebuilt or new and is nicely done.

Some two-flats are lucky enough to have a permanent porch made of stone. Proper maintenance and this will last another 100 years.

This one is also new and very nicely done. I especially like the way it wraps the building, which ties it in better architecturally to me.

Something like this would be great for our building.

Metal awnings often replaced wood after they fell apart. I would suspect these went on in the 1950s. I don't usually like them.

All brick porches are out there too and can be kind of heavy on the brick, but they last.

I like this one quite a bit with the yellow brick.

And some two-flats don't have porches at all.

The house voyeur in me lives still it seems.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Twilight Zone

Since I'm on the theme of old cheesy TV shows from the 60's and 70's I'll stick with it. The photo at left is the kind of twilight zone type thing you'll see while salvage shopping.

Imagine being in a huge lofty warehouse building looking through rows and rows of doors with miscellaneous baby carriages and strollers strewn about. Where are you?

Why at Salvage One of course! I have to say that I absolutely loved the place this time visit. Not only did I love the space, but I loved the fact that their door prices were waaaay lower than my previous entry.

So, we went through some more doors. I swear, we must have touched a few hundred in one day.

Look at this cute little baby door! I wanted to take it home.

So many different and cool doors. I love doors. I'm just kind of tired of sanding wood you know? If only they would sand themselves.

Of course, when you go salvage shopping, you have to look around. A room of porcelain!! To a houseblogger, this is like stumbling on Aladdin's treasure.

We found a door similar to the the one at Architectural Artifacts. We found many cool doors that were not the right size.

And then we found this door with muntins like what our original windows had. Hmmm....

It needs some work. Some of the trim pieces that hold the glass in have to be re fabricated, but woodworker Steve can handle that. There's one coat of paint on it but 'Dirty Jobs' fan Jocelyn can handle that while grumbling a little.

As you can guess, we bought it.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

In Search of...

Today Steve and I swat-teamed our mission- to find a replacement door for our garage. Here you see the current sad state of our garage entry door. Also note the boarded up windows, which are high on my list for restoring next year.

If you make the photo bigger, you can see how the door has buckled and looks like it might not make it through another Chicago winter.

With a new door with a window and windows instead of board ups, I can imagine looking out at my garage and seeing something resembling a cottage with cute curtains in the windows. Steve also plans to build an overhang/wood awning to protect the door from the elements and help it last longer.
There's a long story that brought us to this salvage shopping trip that I will not bore you with. The short version is we went to Home Desperate and Menards and looked into steel doors. We found out (surprise! not!) that our door is not a standard size. Of course it's not.
But this is now something I am grateful for -the reasons for which I will share in coming posts.

Our first stop was Architectural Artifacts. We actually had not been there since they expanded and added a (ejem) museum. This means they have things that cost as much as the downpayment you put on your home.
The owner has a large collection of Fer Forge, which he purchased ages ago when it was worth nothing.

Now, it is all the rage so he gets to gloat big time, which reminds me of a big time fantasy of mine,that I could go back in time to about 1970 and buy up tons of Stickley and other Arts & Crafts furniture, which was worth almost nothing back then. A girl can dream can't she?

But I digress. They have alot of doors there.

We looked thru some doors....

And then we looked thru some more doors...

And then we found this door that fit our measurements but was not exactly what we had in mind. We made note of it and went on our way to our next stop.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

We have a winner

After extensive googling by both me and Steve, it has come down to spending $20 each bracket, which comes to a whopping $320.00 for pantry brackets.

These are Eastlake style brackets, which are more plain and austere in design than more ornate Victorians. Its closer to the period in which our home was built and we like the style too.

We just can't seem to do things on the cheap can we? I was telling my Dad about the predicament and I said, "Probably no one would notice if we used more Victorian styled brackets..." He said, "Yes, except for two people." He knows us well.

We always console ourselves by citing the fact that we do all the labor and so that saves us alot of expense enabling us to buy what we really want.

I had to laugh because when we bought all the oak for the shelves, one of the employees at Owl Lumber suggested we use veneer plywood for the shelving, which is alot cheaper and does not involve gluing up boards etc... He had no idea who he was talking to. We, who build to last 100 years. The truth is that real wood is much more repairable than plywood, which is one major plus to us. Plus, we are wood nuts. Anyone who has read this blog at all can see that is true.

From the photo, it looks like a pretty good quality casting-cleaner and better than many I've seen. In my searching for brackets, I've seen some really nice ones that cost hundreds of dollars a piece-real antiques and quite lovely. Don't worry, I won't go there. That's a bit much for a pantry after all.

So, while I appreciate your suggestion Gary, Steve has other woodworking projects to do and we are just going to have to bust the budget this time. Sparky, if you have any ideas now is the time to speak up because we need to get these ordered.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sticking Points

It is inevitable that one gets stuck on occasion. Sometimes you are waiting on materials or perhaps you sprain your ankle- things happen.
In this case, we've run into a bit of a problem with our pantry project. Nothing disastrous, but just one of those things that you have to problem-solve.

It started when we decided to put the microwave in the pantry. After all, who wants to look at a microwave in a more period style kitchen? Plus, they are space hogs and only used (by us) to heat up leftovers or Steve's coffee, which he likes super hot.

We had ordered the same brackets that we used for the upstairs pantry from Vandyke's. We liked the design and the price was right. But then we realized that to fit the microwave on our shelving, the shelves would need to be deeper and subsequently the brackets larger. Fortunately Vandyke's takes returns.

To be exact, we need brackets that are 11"- 13" for the shelf support and about 9" for the wall mounted part. Not easy to find as we have found. Or rather, not easy to find in a style we consider appropriate for the style of our home. In fact, I have found a definite shortage of arts and crafts style iron brackets on the market. Most are Victorian in design- you lucky Victorian homeowners!

We found two options during our rather extensive googling. One was an iron bracket in an Eastlake style from This company says they may get more in October, but they will not give out a phone number- a red flag in my book. Not to mention how difficult it was to get a straight answer via email.

The other is solid brass and twice the price ($40/pair). The more I look, the more appealing these become.

Then, I found these from our friends over at Rejuvenation. They are $29 each and we need 16 of them!

Eastlake is not the most period appropriate for us of course, but for some reason we feel better about that style than more flowery Victorian.

Other than this issue with the brackets, things are moving along with the pantry. Here you see the cabinet grade 3/4" birch plywood we got for a steal at Owl Lumber because it was off size and they wanted to get rid of it. It's a shame to cover it up. In case anyone is wondering, we had to open up the wall to add more 2x4s and decided to add plywood for more support. We also added an outlet for the microwave.

Steve has been faithfully going to the wood shop and gluing up the shelves. They are now ready for me (the helper) to sand and stain them.

The plans are on the wall. This pantry has been planned out in great detail. When it comes to storage in our small home, we do not mess about.
I am very excited to finally have a place for my beloved Dyson vacuum cleaner and to be able to finally unpack the kitchen contents still stored in boxes in the basement.
And that is my way overdue pantry update!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Some more progress...

We are slowly hacking away at our "to do" list for this summer. We hung the refinished oak door in the den on Saturday. It looks nice, but after we hung it I really had that "I want more!" feeling.

I wanted to rent that jackhammer and tear up decrepit patio or obsolete sidewalk in the front yard that will expand my garden. Or start stripping the basement stairs or something. But unfortunately, I am sick with a miserable summer cold.

I managed to prime the trim around the back porch door and then I called it a day.

Steve wired the additional outlet we are adding in the pantry and put in the blocking for the shelves.
Anyway, this is about all sniffly me can manage in the way of a post today. Pantry post coming soon.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Awning Photos

I know I've been a bad houseblogger this summer. I have to admit that I've been distracted by my other fixer-upper projects, which have to do with the neighborhood at large and not just what is inside our home.

I am finally getting around to posting photos of the new awnings from Chesterfield Awning. We are very happy with them. Not only do they add curb appeal, but with our rough winters they will give a much longer life to our front door, as well as keep the building cooler with shade.

Here you see the finished front door with brass kickplate. It is amazing how fast it is tarnishing.

This will end our curb appeal work for the summer. In the fall, I may be jackhammering a small sidewalk if I have time to expand my garden, but we'll see.
Progress is slow, but we are working on things. We finally got the shoe moulding done in the front entry as you see here.

This weekend I sanded and stained the den door. Steve cut out a wall in the pantry in preparation for blocking. Posts on that soon.

Projects that MUST be done this season:
Garage Entry Door
Trimming out & painting back porch door
Scraping & painting trim around garage

So we're here working just at a slower pace.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The stuff dreams are made of

I realize this post title is quite lofty, but this post is an ode to someone I've never met but whom I admire greatly.

The model planes you see here were made by my Dad's partner Dave's Dad. When Dave was a little boy, his Dad spent hours and hours making these model planes and boats. Not only did he pay attention to every detail, but these creations also actually worked. The airplanes really flew. The boats sailed on water.

Dave told us about how some airplanes his Dad built would crash and then he'd just make another one. He told us how his Dad would take him out to put the boats into a lagoon. I've always loved the image of this. And even though I never got to meet Dave's Dad, I can see just a bit how this kind, patient and very intelligent man came to be with a Dad like his.

Here is the boat. I was just in awe of these when I saw them. These were not kits. These were made from scratch!

But one thing was missing. The boat needed a stand. And that was a job for ...Steve the woodworker...

A small job, but that boat deserved to be on a stand not a pillow.
The stand is almost done. It's made of oak and coated in 4 cans of black spray paint to have a smooth finish. Steve didn't fill the grain, so it took alot of paint to get that perfect surface.

I will post photos when we bring the stand over this Sunday.

Some more photos for the heck of it...

Steve and Dad measuring the template.

The boat with template. Template made out of fome core board and glued together with hot glue gun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The girl is back

Well, not exactly. But I did strip the basement door this past weekend. It's the last door left in the interior of the building that needed to have that unsightly white paint removed.

I am happy to report the door is in pretty much pristine condition and needs no repair.

In case you are interesed, it took 2 hours to strip one side with a heat gun and then one coat of Citris Stripper cleaned the residue off. The other side was just shellaced. We decided to keep for posterity.

Nice wood grain isn't it?

All that remains on the entry is to install the kickplate and then I will post photos.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Happy Summer!

I know I'm being a sub par houseblogger this summer. I have to admit we've been distracted this year.

After last year, I vowed this would be "the summer of fun," and we are keeping to that promise. Not that house projects are not fun- because they most certainly can be. And sometimes, you need a break.
Here we are at the Silver Lake Dunes in Michigan. We rented 400cc ATVs for a few hours and acted like bad-asses. No, I have never done this before, but it was a blast.

We were in Ludington visiting Steve's family for a week. Here's a shot of Lost Lake, where we spent a quiet afternoon.

It's important to let a dog really be a dog sometimes if you know what I mean.

I promise we'll be back posting about some projects. I need to post the awnings, which are now up and look great. And the pantry is on the horizon.

But in the meantime, everyone make sure and take a little time to swing in that porch swing, have a glass of lemonade, and get a little sunburn on your nose.