Three years and counting - part one

Well, this Wednesday marks the third anniversary of my marriage to Paul. When he proposed to me, he promised me, unbidden, three things: that he would provide for me, that he would pursue me, and that I could do whatever I wanted with the house. He's been true to his word on every count. It's been a rich three years. Two months before the wedding, we purchased our home and I moved in with Gina and Tony.  After the honeymoon, Paul moved into the house, and Gina traded him for his primo condo, close to campus. In that condo were about 8000 books. We had no place for them really, since our garage had a dirt floor, so we moved them all into our tiny less than 1100 sq. ft. house. What didn't fit in Gina's former room (with the exception of the kitchen, all our rooms qualify as tiny) was stacked waist high in the front room. Because we run a used-book business we had to have access to them, which meant we literally climbed in, over and around them for over six months - the amount of time it took to lay concrete in the garage. (Note to friends: pouring concrete looks amazing and fun for five minutes only. After that it's miserable, backbreaking labor. Thank God for dear Jim Richards, who did most of the work and did not charge us for a dime of his labor.) Sadly, I have no pictorial record of our time of in-home spelunking. At the time, I couldn't wait to forget, and certainly didn't want anyone to see how we were living. Now the memory makes me laugh. I wish I could show you how crazy it was, and how far we've come. Once we got the books moved out to the garage and shelved we set to work on the house. We'd moved in, but we were cramped, very cramped. Paul owned a lot more stuff than I'd imagined - random doo-dads, what-nots, and books, books, cd's, more cd's, and more books. It's taken all this time, but we are done with the biggest changes and are feeling so happy with the results we wanted to share the joy.

Our house was built in 1905, probably as a farm-workers' bungalow. It was originally even smaller. Though we haven't been able to ascertain the exact original floor plan, there's plenty of evidence of walls and doorways being moved around. The one thing we know for sure is that Tony's room (my someday art/hobby/guest room) and the bathrooms and laundry area were added a few decades ago. His room, we were told, started as a side porch. Beyond that all we know is that it has been a rental house for many, many years - and it showed. The walls were all the same shade of nicotine white. The doors are apartment grade. The carpet (which we cannot afford to replace any time soon) is also apartment grade. Everything was BLAH, well, except the dreadful wallpaper which lined the lower half of what is now the dining room. We didn't even know it was there until we moved in. (The tenants had the whole place stacked and ringed wall to wall with junk when we viewed the place. I can't help but wonder if they weren't trying to keep someone from buying. It was that bad.)

Since we were spending the bulk of our time there, cooking and eating, and since it seemed so dreary, I decided to start in the kitchen. Here are the "before" shots. That shelf with the glass doors did not come with the house. It was in my sister-in-law's breezeway, waiting to be taken to the dump. She kindly let us take it. It fit the space as perfectly as a built-in, and with a fresh coat of bright white added charm and much needed storage.

And here are the "after" pictures. My goal was to allow myself freedom to bring in almost any colored item that suits my fancy and be able to work it in somehow. I'm tired of living a neutral and austere life! Age and dotage are apparently taking over - and I love it! (Still haven't decided what art to hang on that large green wall - we're considering our giant black and white print of the Synod of Dordrecht), or possibly some prints from the Rip Squeak children's books.

The large print at right is something Paul brought to the marriage, a spectacular rendering of the Sutro Baths, which happened to pick up every color found in every room of the house from which it is visible - I love that kind of serendipity!

I'm not a doll person - really - but Mom was. She was forever trying to get me to bring home that Pillsbury dough doll you see there on the shelf. I never would, but when she passed I knew she was mine, and wouldn't you know, she looks cuter there than I imagined, right at home.

On the refrigerator (despite how dreadful it looks, conscience and wallets do not permit us to replace such a thing while it still works) is a handsome carved rooster I purchased years ago when I worked at an antique/curiosity shop. I determined upon first sight that I would never have a kitchen in which this fellow would not fit in. He was the first thing I considered when choosing the colors to paint. Lucky for me he is very colorful! He was even more handsome before my cat Napoleon gnawed off the tip of his beak....We pretend not to notice.

Our next project was Paul's "office" aka The Cave. It was the room that I exuberantly ripped all the carpet from when we moved in, to see what was underneath. We did not find hardwood gold, just subfloor, covered with filth and paint splatters, but the carpet was gone, thrown away in a moment of hopeful enthusiasm. When Paul was laid off from his job we began to be concerned that we might lose this house, or have to sell it. We figured we'd better deal with that hideous floor. So it became our next project.

Here's what it looked like.

The next shot shows how it looked after the belt-sander mess. (Note to friends: when using a belt sander, completely seal the door with plastic and tape, open a window and direct a fan out of it. We did not do this, thinking a nailed-up bed sheet would do just fine, and ended up with a 1/8 in. layer of dust over every surface of the house.

You can see our dog, Ginger, was very interested in our doings. She actually did get one lick of white paint before we caught her.  Gina and Paul selected the red. I was dubious, but they proved right. It looks great! (Note to friends: when painting anything red, BUY THE PRIMER! I know it seems expensive and like a wasted step, but four coats and a whole second gallon of even more expensive paint later...well, I think you get the idea.)
As for the floor, since it was of poor quality, and since we couldn't afford Pergo or the like, we opted for a floor paint. The weird bit in the corner was an area that had been rotted and long ago crudely patched with a piece of scrap metal. To properly repair such a thing is as above our fix-it IQ and pay scale as it apparently was for the last person to tackle it, so I did what any self respecting domestic diva in my situation would do, got out nails and spackle, hammered the patch as tightly as I could then smoothed its edges and irregularities with the putty. After paint and the inevitable furniture, well, who's going to know (Christov, stay out of this!) the difference?
We finished up with another happy and timely find, a bookshelf we found on the street a couple of blocks from our house with a "FREE" sign on it. We raced a couple blocks past to borrow my brother-in-law's truck, post haste! Within 15 minutes we had this giant 70's hewn hulk of a "stereo stand" in our living room. It had been painted a nasty shade of grey, which was easily remedied. We were bowled over by how perfectly it fit the space, no small thing in a house with ridiculously small rooms and equally ridiculously high ceilings.

This room looked so great, so crisp and clean that the rest of the house looked even more dreadful. Unlike the kitchen, this room is clearly visible from the living areas. It was like a gold tooth in a rotten mouth. In short, we were motivated. Then the Christmas season piled on the last straw. Moving a bookcase to make room for the Christmas tree brought me up close and personal with the revolting wallpaper we'd been studiously ignoring for a couple of years. A piece of it hung down, so I pulled it, and that was that. I was committed. After the holiday it came off, revealing really nasty wall board. Once again finding myself in over my head, (I have no skill nor intention to re-drywall a room in my house.) I decided to putty and retexture! (Note to friends: retexturing is fun for five minutes. If you can afford to pay someone to do it - do! Also, if you are ever going to paint or resurface over a stain - get a sealant for the stain first. It WILL bleed through if you don't. Please hear me on this.) It was a difficult but highly rewarding experience. I opted for a troweled look. I have seldom felt prouder of a project than that re-texture. I think it is a thing of beauty.

The decision to go with white textured wallboard below the chair rail made up my mind that this room would never be a living room again - it screamed DINING ROOM!  We could seat more people and sit around it playing games without having go off to the kitchen. Out went the too-big sofa, in came the nice dining room set Paul had left in the condo for Gina.  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

That's enough for one blog post, wouldn't you agree? So tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story.


Angela said…
Your home looks amazing! I'd love to bring you a diet Pepsi and come see it in person. The new blog design is great too.
Karin said…
Lovely post! Like an HGTV show!
Laurie M. said…
Thanks to you both. It sure is fun to look back on it all.

Angela, you are always welcome, and you don't have to bring Diet Pepsi either! Most afternoons that aren't Tuesday or Thursday find me home and relaxed by 2 or 3. Just give me a call, or look for my car out front. If it's there, so am I.
WhiteStone said…
Happy Anniversary!
And thanks for the tour. Makes me realize I could do away with a little bit of my conservatism when decorating.
Anonymous said…
Laurie, I just want to make a few brief comments.

First, congratulations to you and Paul. You both seem very happy. Second, your house looks great. I love the colors. Third, I also like the new blog template--a lot. And last but not least, I'm very thankful for your friendship!
Ashley said…

I love the colors! It looks wonderful. The big white bookcase in Paul's office, and the dining room are my favorite I think, though it's hard to choose. :)


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