September 9, 2018

Sunday House Post: Getting Started

I'm going to join Amanda in doing a bonus post on Sundays about the house every so often, since I find myself looking forward to her posts.  If you guys aren't following the renovation of her very old New England home, you should be!  She's knee deep in it, that's for sure.

Amanda's dining room.  Our renovation experiences have been so similar in some ways and different in others!

We'll start with some background for those of you who may be new. We bought a 3,700 sqft 1890 fixer upper in the summer of 2015.  It was structurally in great condition (they REALLY don't build em like they used to) but everything else needed work - and I do mean everything.  We got it for next to nothing.

You could be forgiven for thinking we were crazy.

The first six months we owned it we had a purchase + renovation loan, which meant a lot of things had to happen quickly - total rewire, partial replumb, new garage, brand new HVAC and ducting upstairs and downstairs, regrading and new concrete, removal of the lead paint on the exterior and repainting, paint in every room, new flooring, refinishing 3000 square feet of historic hardwood floors, 37 new windows (and that wasn't even all of them!), a brand new kitchen, you get the idea. 

A lot of this was complicated by the fact that we didn't take it down to the studs in order to preserve the amazing original trim and crown below (and because many of our walls are solid brick + plaster with no airgap, so there are no studs!)

The day we first saw it, so much potential.  Also I still giggle about the fact that we saw it for the first time on April Fool's Day.  A LOT of people told us we were fools!

After that initial push and once the purchase + renovation loan was closed out into one mortgage (and we made a legit profit on equity, miracle of miracles), things slowed down a bit.  Both because we were exhausted and because until I have a vision for a room, I leave it blank and empty, no matter how long it takes me.  I don't stress about it.

The seller handed over the Abstract of Title at our closing, which begins when the US deeded the 200 acres that would become my town to John Tipton 70 years before this house was built.  The next 70 years of the Abstract detail that parcel being slowly sold off until the remaining acreage is my lot.
So where does that leave us now?  This summer I've gotten some visions, finally!  I've been:

Painting a lot of trim:

It's all primed, and it's easy to ignore until it isn't.  I'm only painting trim that was already painted when we bought it, which is most of the house except the three rooms with the gorgeous wood trim downstairs.

Decorating our new roommate's room (he lives in the old servants' quarters, I told you this house was old!)

Creating a study for the new roommate, who is a masters of architecture student:

Uncovering six transom windows, which were all covered with wood on both sides at some point after 1958, judging by the stamps on the wood:

Delightful, delightful, beige colored plywood.  This is the master bedroom.

Seeing the light of day for the first time in decades in the bedroom I have zero vision for right now, haha.
They're still painted over for now, but it's still so cool seeing light where there was darkness before.  Also don't judge my Goodwill room!
This window in the guest bedroom is painted this horrific color that is somewhere between This Surface is Probably Dirty Beige and Millennial Pink.

Painting and wallpapering this built-in at the top of the servants quarters staircase.  So much work but SO worth it, my least favorite room in the house is beginning to be my favorite.  Annoyingly I don't have any before pictures, but imagine This Surface is Probably Dirty Beige on every surface.

This is the first transom I got totally done, I could stare at that wallpaper through the leaded glass all day.

The walls on either side of this thing should tell you what the "before" was like.  Cat scratches on the walls, gross beige paint, and carpet that will have to go sometime.  One thing at a time.

And I didn't tackle this one myself, but we had work done on the porch gutters recently.  They're integrated gutters, so that white wood box at the top of this photo is actually part of the gutter.  It was covered in asphalt material at the top, which was leaking water into the wood box and rotting it. 

It's sometimes tough to balance all this with riding, because I'll get rolling on a project in a way that's hard to take a break from (wet paint out, etc) and lose a whole day.  But, that's sort of the way it goes when you take on a house like this.


  1. I love following along so please keep these coming! It's amazing what you've done - and the architecture of your home is just so gorgeous.

  2. Can't wait to see the new renos in person! I can attest to the amount of work you guys have put in and it is SUCH a lovely home! Have loved watching it bloom!

    1. Yes! We have TWO legit spare bedrooms now, plus a spare couch room. And a third room that we will use for...bowling? I have no idea really, haha.

  3. I always love seeing your home renovation pics! And I'm definitely down for a Sunday blog post! :)

    1. Sundays are always so quiet for bloggers and I love to sit and read them with my coffee in the morning! Figured I'd try to contribute every so often.

  4. YAY! So excited to see more of your gorgeous house!

    I am on record as hating wallpaper with the fire of 10,000 suns and...I can't stop staring at that built-in it's perfect and gorgeous.

    1. Ugh, you and me both. We have taken so much down in this house, including in a two story entry that required me spending an entire weekend on a walkboard between two ladders over the stairs. TERRIFYING! The stuff in the built-in is peel and stick and repositionable, so if I get tired of it I just peel it off. Perfect!

  5. I talk about your house a lot to my friends and family because I think what you are doing is absolutely incredible!

  6. I also find your home gorgeous and love seeing the renovation pictures!

  7. Your house is so cool. I love old houses and tried hard to get one. I grew up in an old house that still had a dirt floor! Maybe my next house will be old.

    1. Wow, a dirt floor, that's crazy! There are some homes by Connor's breeder's house that have dirt floors, but not too many these days. Your new house may not be old but it does sound like it has a lot of character, and that counts for a lot.