Monday, December 13, 2010

The House on Elm - don't sweat the small stuff

Very shortly after we moved in we needed to do some quick, nothing fancy fixes.

For one - we foolishly assumed the hideous blue tile looking stuff around the shower was in fact actual tile. Ah.. rookie mistake.
So that had to all come out.
Ok. new bathroom ..check.

When we bought our three bedroom home we asked our oldest child, then 8, to pick out her room - she chose the attic. The unfinished attic.
Slightly too short to be legal living space - but perfect for a child, we forged ahead with sheetrock and skylights. We didn't do any creative, atticy stuff like you see now in all the remodeling magazines. We just finished the room added a blue carpet (of her choice) and moved her in.
She loved that room at the top of the house. Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. But a child's paradise none-the-less.
In the beginning - the only access to the attic was through our room... the so called master bedroom. Which was perfect for an 8 year old. Years later we would reconfigure the hallway to allow our teen a private entrance to her space at the top of the house.

We planted a vegetable garden and a some trees in the vast backyard... but those piddly projects never made us work hard, sweat, bandage up, or cry... and certainly did not involve a sledgehammer.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The House on Elm - let the demo begin

Below you can clearly see a snapshot into the daily lives of a happy family raising children.
There, my still-big-haired-in-the-80s-wife and our little imp have just finished planting flowers by the walkway. Ferris used to love to water flowers. Or more accurately he just loved to play with the hose.

Life was quiet and flowing.

Notice behind my adorable family the last remaining aluminum awning, being held up by rusted iron scroll work, resting on a cracked cement stoop.

It was a clear sunny day when I pulled into the driveway and found a sledgehammer leaning against the house in a pile of rubble that was once our cement stoop.

I crawled up into the house to find my motherly-wife in the kitchen spooning pasta into Ferris.

"Um... we have a sledge hammer?"

She excitedly told me about how proud she was for removing the whole thing and taking down that hideous awning and now all that cracked mess is gone.
Although that would depend on how you define 'gone'.

"Um yeah...true... tho how will we get into the house now?"

blank stare.

Let's recap. Cement steps, awning and ironwork are all demo'ed into a pile of rubble conveniently mounded near the kitchen door. We have no idea how to get rid of this stuff. We have no idea of how to make new steps.

ok... this is going well.

Later that week I came home to find a long haired guy driving away in my resourceful-wife's very used Chrysler Laser. She was smiling proudly - standing on our brand new steps.

I still wonder where she got that sledge hammer.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The House on Elm - ready for baby and beyond

The first years included some renovations taken on with reckless abandon. Luckily we both had a sense of humour, and were still able to drink hard liquor.

For starters, understand that we didn't take pictures of our early --hmm... I am cautious to call them home improvement projects... But I have found old shots around the house and yard that can help with the details in some cases.

For example - in this shot, which I have posted before, you can see there were striped aluminum awnings on the front and sides of the house.

These were to be removed.
With no knowledge of how they were attached, how to take them down - or what to do with them after.. we forcefully ripped them off the house.

My ever-round wife only able to call out advice from a safe distance.

We stood scratching our heads at the holes, and old caulk left behind. And after some requisite scratching and staring - we just walked away.

Later that spring we 'fixed' the problem by painting the door and hanging some planters.

There. Ok. Moving on.

Inside the house the nesting seemed complete with the nursery ready to go, with a crib and changing table and handmade bumpers.

By the time Ferris arrived we had finally covered the unfinished wood in the living room with a new area rug.

Another great fix. It kept us from getting splinters in our feet and gave us a place to play with the new baby.

But while it was a nice rug - the dark blue was hard to keep looking good. I spent much of that summer vacuuming.

This turned out not to be a long term problem because soon after Ferris began crawling my safety-conscience wife had us install new carpeting including the stairs. This turned out to be a wise idea. As Ferris was a rather active lad during the learning to crawl, walk, fall and bounce years.

What I didn't know of course was just how often we would redecorate.
Rugs installed, and ripped out. Wallpaper applied and removed. Paint colors changed like the seasons, we've had more sofas than most, and learned to not only set tile - but take it up as well... but I am getting ahead of myself.

I have much to cover - like where did she find that sledge hammer, and who else moves doors and windows like they are furniture....

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The House on Elm - this old house

With remarkable speed and very little dexterity we painted the entire house...
dreary in its offwhiteness, but clean.

As we started to get settled and make changes we began to understand that our new house was anything but new.
It was built in the early thirties by the parents of our elderly neighbor, she actually grew up in this house.

She and her husband then built the house she is in now, right next door. In fact, our house was the farm house that owned and managed the land on much of our street. Our busy double-yellow-lined road was once dirt and our neighbor, as a young girl, used to walk the cows up the hill to the north pastures. These pastures long ago sold off to build new neighborhoods.

While this is all very quaint and New Englandy we were young and stupid and knew nothing of updating or maintaining a house - let alone an OLD house.

Imagine our surprise when we ripped up the living room rug to find the entire center of the floor was unfinished wood. Unfinished 70 year old wood. Huh.
Apparently - back in the day, they only shellacked around where the edges of the area rug. Why waste good shellac under a rug.

Well - there was no way we were going to embark upon refinishing wood floors with a baby due any moment. Thank goodness for that sage moment...
So we simply measured the unfinished area, and bought a rug of optimal size.
There... problem solved.
We were feeling pretty good about ourselves during those first few weeks.
We focused much of our attention on preparing ourselves for the baby to arrive - I was reading every baby book I could find, and was pretty much ready to deliver the baby myself if the need presented.

It wasn't until several months later that I learned to hide the sledge hammer...