Tag Archive | historic homes

This is so cool!

Yesterday the husband and I went downtown to a “vintage market” that’s kind of like an antique store only more hipster-ish. They’re only open the first weekend of every month, and we rarely find things we have to have, but yesterday was a good day. The husband found a big metal cabinet thing with drawers that will apparently be perfect for holding screws and nails and some such stuff in his workshop. And me? I found this treasure:

img_5738It’s handmade from oak and originally it was going to be for knitting needles but then the more I looked at it, the more I realized it needed to be for my pen stuff.

I think I want to get dark purple felt to line the drawers, and maybe someday the husband can use that workshop of his to make more dividers, and it could hold pens in a better way. But this works for now and I’m just tickled pink with it.

The only other thing I did yesterday was clean out my craft room. I’ve talked about our old house before, and how the old sleeping porch/addition is sagging dangerously and needs renovation desperately. We’ve been working with a contractor and an architect since March to draw up plans and get quotes, and we were going to expand the kitchen and get a laundry room and it was going to be Marvelous! Well. As I feared, our plans were a little a lot beyond our budget, and our dream kitchen is not an option. Knowing that, our goal now is to get the house in shape to sell in a couple of years. For now, we’ll remove the addition, rebuild a nice new deck, update the kitchen a little bit, and refinish the downstairs floors.

Having this be a smaller project means we should be able to redo the upstairs bathroom that’s a mishmash of cheap fixtures, and create something that’s appropriate for the house and aesthetically pleasing. It’s nowhere close to either of those now!

Sorry, getting off track here. Not adding on a laundry room means we need to find a home for the washer/dryer, and our choices are the basement (damp, spidery, rickety stairs, and more problematic, the husband’s current workshop) or the tiny, not-very-functional bedroom that the husband is currently using as an office. (I know, poor husband! He should fare better with our next house.) We agreed the office should become a nice laundry room with some additional storage, and that we could create a shared space from my craft room. It’s not ideal for either of us, but it’ll work for a couple of years.

SO! I needed to create some room for his stuff, and I did a much-needed purge. Gone are the scrapbooking supplies I haven’t used in almost ten years! Gone are scraps of ribbon and other little bits that I hoarded for “some project some day”! Gone are my fabric remnants that I bought to line purses I never made! I condensed my yarn stash and made room for my knitting books and bins of leftover yarn balls. All of that meant I have half a closet and an empty corner, ready to share! And honestly, I’m in love with how it looks.

img_5735It’s great progress, but it’s not quite enough space for his stuff. I have a bookcase that holds my knicknacks — my Wonder Woman collection, some family mementos, little gifts from my kids — and I think that stuff will have to be packed up for now to create more space. I do want him to feel like he has a little corner of his own in there, at least. So maybe that will be today’s project. Unless I decide I need to do some knitting!

Oh boy, here we go

We live in an old house, 100 years old next year, actually. While I love the look of this house, I’ve written about some of our challenges before. We bought it in a rush, with rose-colored glasses on, and kind of ended up with a lemon. At least it feels that way a lot of the time, as often as things fall apart. The biggest issue has always been the back of the house, where some kind of two-story sleeping porch was added early on but not done properly. It was sagging slightly when we bought the house and has been getting worse over the last three years, and we’ve been putting it off in hopes that we could find someone able to do a relatively simple, affordable fix.

Nope, not gonna happen. The back addition has to come down and be replaced. We decided that late last fall, and then, this week we got the ball rolling. We signed a design contract on Saturday to get work started with the contractor and architect on the plan, and we’re meeting with the architect tonight. If all goes well, we’ll rebuild a one-story addition with a laundry room and an expanded, renovated kitchen, and then paint the entire exterior.

I’m terrified, guys. I know it has to happen, and we’ve been putting plans in place to make it work financially, but logic doesn’t always win over worry in my head. It will help when we get the actual bid, so I know we’ll actually be able to afford it. But guys, heck. A long kitchen renovation? Strange people in/around the house to drive the dogs bonkers? We’re talking about renting a house nearby while the work is done, and that would help my stress level immensely. I don’t know how we could do it otherwise, without one of us working from home to manage the dogs. And even then, leaving our dogs alone in someone else’s house? What if Duncan chews something up? I know, worst case scenario: we pay for the damage. Still, you name it, I’ll worry about it.

Even the contractor said this is a big project, but he also said he’s excited, so I’m pretty sure he’s the right guy for the job. I’m trying to manage the anxiety, especially since the husband is excited. And I think I’ll get there. Eventually. I’m definitely excited to have the work be done and behind us!

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Efforts in Optimism

If you remember, I was recently freaking out about my falling-down fixer-upper old house. I was feeling overwhelmed and annoyed and tired of dealing with it all and wanted to sell it and move like, tomorrow. So we had a realtor come out and look around and give us her insight. It was good, and not so good. The good news is that the main body of the house looks pretty good; refinishing the floors and painting the interior will get us good to sell, and that part supports the selling price we need. The not so good is what I was afraid of: the addition on the back that needs so much work could make it hard to sell as-is. We’d have to find just the right buyer wanting to take on a project, and while it’s certainly possible, it’s more difficult.

That night was rough. I was disappointed and discouraged, and sure that we would either have to stay in that house forever or sell it at a loss, and neither option made me happy. But sleep and a brand new day made a big difference, and the husband and I started making plans to move forward. He made an appointment with a flooring company, and I contacted a landscaping service to clean up the back yard. We cleaned out some big trash that’s been hanging around the basement and the backyard, and that felt good. I cut down some tall weeds that have been bothering me all summer, and that felt good too. (At least until two days later when I got a lovely case of poison ivy…on my CHIN. OMG.)

So we have a plan now: in the next few weeks, we’re going to take out the old radiators downstairs, which will free up some valuable wall space. We’ll move the furniture upstairs, we’ll all move to an AirBnB house for three days, and then we’ll come home to beautiful shiny, freshly stained hardwood floors. We’ve been talking about doing this for TWO years, and I’m so excited that we’re finally doing it. I think that’s made a big difference, just making progress on something. And we’ve agreed to get a couple more bids on dealing with the addition, to see if we can find one that’s more affordable. We’ll do it ourselves if we have to, and that will be okay. I can manage to stay here another four years, I think, if we continue to make forward progress on the repairs. The husband and I just need to stay committed, and force ourselves to take initiative on starting projects. Just do it, right? Right.

And I’ll end on a high note: Duncan no longer has accidents in the house! And we’ve found a way to keep him from chewing up the couches while we’re gone! He might actually grow up to be a pretty good dog.

P.S. he already is a good dog.  

Fixer-Uppers Wear Me Down

Guys, I need to unburden myself. I have worries, many of them. I am afraid we made a colossal mistake when we bought this house two years ago. It was in the neighborhood we wanted, a price we could afford, the size and features we wanted, and we thought we had the time/energy/mental stamina to do all the work it needed. And it needs a LOT. More than we realized when we bought it. I’m not sure our inspector gave us a thorough idea of some of the bigger issues, and I’m not sure if he did and we ignored it because we were in a hurry.

So now we’re in a house with an old home addition that wasn’t done right to begin with, and probably needs to be torn down and rebuilt. When it was done, the rooms it added weren’t done as conditioned living space, so at least tearing it down doesn’t lose us any square footage. But spending the money to tear it down doesn’t really add to the value, so without doing a rebuild, we’re afraid it’s just throwing money away. And doing the rebuild in a way that adds valuable living space feels prohibitively expensive. (We’ve gotten two bids. Both daunting.)

It needs to be painted, badly. The pet-stained hardwood floors need to be repaired and refinished. The radiators and boiler need to be removed. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. The kitchen was redone, but with cheap materials, so it’s aging quickly. The front porch needs a new floor, and possibly joist repair underneath, plus new stairs and railings. The fireplace needs to be redone. The landscaping sucks. There’s not good storage. And on and on, with a myriad of smaller jobs that stare me in the face day after day.

Add onto that the unexpected projects that have come up since we bought it: the existing chain-link fence was too short and needed to be replaced with an attractive picket fence. Raccoons in the attic and wall. A small tree losing limbs and needing a trim. A large tree losing a large section, and probably needing to be removed. A dishwasher that died. Insulation that needed to be added.

It all wears me down. Wears me out. When I first saw this house, I loved it. I loved the traditional style, the hardwood trim, the pocket doors, the high ceilings, the wraparound porch. I think I still love those things, but they’re overshadowed by everything else. This house has a lot of potential to be stunning. I can almost see it in my mind’s eye. I just don’t know if we can be the people to get it there. Aside from the money, I think about the hassle of renovation. We have three big dogs; taking away their access to the backyard, even temporarily, would make life really difficult. We have two kids; taking away access to the kitchen for weeks would be annoying. One of our dogs is not friendly to strangers. He doesn’t bite, but barks. A lot. Managing all the workmen coming in and out would be stressful. My husband and I manage home repair jobs in different ways that have resulted in conflict in the past, and I don’t want to be fighting for the next five years.

And then, as weird as it may sound, I have emotional connections to my homes, and my connection with this one has soured. I broke my foot in this house. My husband and I struggled more than we ever have while living here, partly because of how we went about moving here. We’re doing all right now, we’re fine, but now it’s connected for me. It’s like, with the old house, that’s where I lived when we lost my dad, my father-in-law, my husband’s grandfather, my dad’s dog. Moving for me felt like a fresh start, a clean slate. So now, with all that’s happened just in two years, I don’t love this house anymore. I don’t love it enough to stress us all out to fix it up. I don’t love it enough to pour a ton of money into it, when that money could go somewhere else.

So what do we do? Right now, the husband is more flexible than I am. Big renovation doesn’t scare him off, although he does want to make sure we could get our money back when we sell if we rehab. Me? I want to move. I’m ready to go NOW. I could pack up and walk away without a second thought, if we could get out what we paid. I want a newer house, one that won’t need huge home repair jobs in the next five years. One that’s built to have a big TV in the living room. One with good-sized closets. One with a functional kitchen and a laundry room. One with modern windows that don’t whistle with every cold wind.

I don’t know what’s next. We’ve reached out to a realtor to explore our options, and I’m doing my best to be open-minded. Of course, I’m also online looking at houses for sale, but that’s to be expected, right?

Sigh. Anyone want a house?