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    Posts by Janice Ware


    The Impromptu Kitchen

    When we bought our 1770 Colonial, we knew we were immediately going to create new bathrooms. However, we were not planning on doing the kitchen right away because of our renovation budget. However, due to the need for the bathroom plumbing mechanics dropping the ceiling in the kitchen space became a must and would result in the loss of the upper cabinets. Once we got into the project, it just made sense to go ahead with a full remodel and get all the mess over at once. Upon first seeing the house, we planned on knocking down the wall down between the dining room and kitchen, so we just went for it. We enjoy an open floor plan and having the kitchen part of the living space.
    Here are pictures of the kitchen before.



    This is a view of the wall that was eventually removed. There was a swinging door between the kitchen and dining room. The dining room was beautiful, but as I mentioned, we prefer an open floor plan.


    This is the project mid construction. But, you can already see how open the space will be when completed.



    Once the wall was down and we were down to studs, it was time to figure out exactly how this was going to go. We kept the sink where it was, just replaced it with the concrete double sink and we kept the dishwasher where it was. By doing this, it kept the plumbing labor costs in the kitchen down.


    One of the very big splurges that we made was to get a professional line duel fuel range. Not only that, but we went up to the 48 inch range with the griddle. The sink was 48 inches and in order to balance out the space (or at least that is how I justified it), we decided on the larger Thermador range. The hood is a Proline hood and was purchased online at a discounted cost.


    In order to save some money, we opted out of doing upper cabinets and decided on open shelves. When this decision was made, a tile backsplash didn’t seem to fit into the style.



    We definitely had a more commercial feel going on, so a galvanized metal wall behind the range and sink seemed to pull the look together. A local company was able to come in, measure and install the wall.



    The island was fairly new in the house and was well made, so we kept that. We did replace the countertop which was formica with a birch countertop from Ikea. This wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it looks good and brings a warmth to the kitchen. Then, I painted the island red to have it “pop”. At first, we had it in the same configuration as it was originally (see picture prior to a party we were having), but then we realized more seating was needed. Jesse was able to cut the top and glue it to remaining countertop that was in the barn. I ordered turned legs from online, and Jesse constructed a counter height table. We can now sit 8 around the table when it is pulled away from the island.




    The floors in the kitchen were a linoleum which we replaced with the floor boards from the attic which were refinished like those in the bathrooms.
    As a reminder of how it looked, here is the dining room prior to renovation. The floors were already wood and finished, so they did not need to be replaced.



    Here is the living/kitchen space now, which fits into the family style living we enjoy.



    As I mentioned this wasn’t exactly planned but has definitely become the heart of the house in everyway.

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    Renovated Master Bath


    From the last post, you were able to see how by knocking down a few walls and putting up some new ones, we were able to create a more usable and efficient use of space. So now to the bathroom makeovers.

    First, I’ll start with the hall bath. It was definitely a step back in time and not a good one. As you can see below, it was very small, with dated fixtures, and not very welcoming.



    With the new configuration and a little imagination, we were able to create a bright bathroom. The refurbished clawfoot tub fit perfectly and the sink cabinet made for good use of space. The toilet has its own room, a toilet closet so to speak with tile flooring. We also added a linen closet. The floor in the rest of the bathroom is the refurbished floor boards from the attic that were salvaged when the attic space was demo in preparation for insulation.








    The master bath was a huge undertaking, and took us a while to plan out. Here are the pictures of the before. Please note you stepped up into the bathroom, which was due to the mechanicals/plumbing needed.



    In the master bath, we wanted 2 sinks and a separate tub and shower, but space was limited. We also didn’t want to step up, which meant reworking the plumbing. In the end, we dropped the kitchen ceiling to make it work (see next post), but it was all worth it. The actual tile came from Home Depot and was installed by a local tiling company. The tub was a wonderful find and was actually free. We used unfinished floorboards from the attic as the tub surround instead of tiling. The sink cabinets are Ikea brand and the fixtures are from Ferguson. In the master bath, the toilet was once again in it’s own “room” with a tile floor, as we did in the hall bath.







    Toilet room

    Finally the half bath downstairs is actually one of my favorites as it was mostly cosmetic. Here is a before, which actually doesn’t show much. I forgot to get some before shots, but to give you a visual, the toilet was dark brown, and yes you read that correctly, Dark Brown.


    We were able to find a sink at Architectural Salvage which worked great and was only $200. We replaced the toilet and pulled up the vinyl flooring. As luck would have it, underneath the flooring was a beautiful wood floor that we sanded and refinished. With a little paint and a decorative mirror we brought the downstairs bath into the 21st century.




    Next up, the kitchen renovation…

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    Do we really need that wall there? Because I have an idea…

    How important is that wall? This was a question I asked Jesse while deciding how we would change the floor plan of the house. Do we really need back stairs, or the attic stairs, I mean the house isn’t that big.

    These questions proved to be the best thing that I could have asked and completely changed the options to reconfigure the upstairs floor plan and create a mudroom/laundry downstairs. Originally, the back stairs arrived at the same spot the front stairs did upstairs and limited the amount of floor space available for the hall bath. There were 3 hallways upstairs, the main hall, the hallway that joined a small room, one bathroom, and the master bedroom, and the final hall which created an extra bedroom upstairs. We chose to do away with the latter 2 halls in order to create usable floor space and a larger bedroom for our daughter. Many of the before pictures were taken during our walkthrough before purchasing the house.

    Here is a view of the upstairs hallway, where the back stairs and attic stairs converged.

    This is the back staircase and the attic stairs, prior to removal.

    This is the back staircase and the attic stairs, prior to removal.

    We were able to knock those out as well as the partition walls to open the space up. See the pictures of the progress below.



    The following pictures show the view of the upstairs hall now that the new walls were put up and notice the pull down to the attic space which was added.




    The Master Bedroom had a hall that connected the bathroom and a small back room all together. Due to the fact that we wanted a larger bathroom and closet space, we eliminated that as well and created a new layout for the bathroom.

    Master Bedroom to hall

    View from back hallway to master bedroom.

    View from back hallway to master bedroom.

    Now we have a private master bedroom and bathroom, with 2 walk in closets. Here is the bedroom with the new walls and hallway to the bathroom.



    Other walls were torn down to create our daughters bedroom and dance area. With the walls up the one room was very small, now it is a true teenage retreat.

    Here are before pictures. One note to make here is that we were very fortunate that the flooring under these particular walls were finished and no repairs were needed.



    How it looks today:



    The back hall originally had the back staircase and was extremely narrow.

    Back staircase


    By eliminating the stairs, it created a mudroom and laundry area.


    Next up, the bathroom makeovers…

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    Wow…where did the time go! Finally getting back to blogging.

    If you recall, I was blogging about the renovations we were undertaking on our Colonial home. However, lesson learned…while you are renovating, working, and living your life, there isn’t a lot of time left to publish it as you go along. Now that we are done with most of the interior renovations, I’m ready to get back to the posting. So, it’s been over a year now and wow, did that go by fast. While doing renovating, time seems to be measured by counting one project to the next and little else. But, I will start again, where I left off. And now I have pictures of the completed projects as we go along! So back to the sinks and the tub.

    Here is the doublesink for the kitchen and it’s progression to the final product. If you recall it was found in the basement of the Futuro offices and purchased from the landlord. It is a concrete sink which Jesse was able to refurbish by filling in the existing drain holes and then drilling out the new spots for modern day drains.

    Sink being refinished to give a polished look

    Sink being refinished to give a polished look

    Finally the sink is in its final spot.

    Finally the sink is put in place.

    Finally the sink is put in place.

    The Final touch on the sink is the commercial pot filler faucet and spray unit from Chicago Faucet.


    The next refurbished plumbing fixture was the laundry sink, which was originally in the basement of the house. It is a matching single sink to the double sink in the kitchen.


    It too was refinished and put into place, this time in the laundry area.


    Finally, the clawfoot tub which was purchased at an architectural salvage store. I was able to sand it down, paint it and we were able to find fixtures which work with it.

    Tub in the process of being scraped and sanded.

    Tub in the process of being scraped and sanded.

    Here are pictures of the clawfoot legs before and after.

    These are the feet from the tub prior to sanding and painting.

    These are the feet from the tub prior to sanding and painting.


    Here is the tub put into place, awaiting the faucets and surround curtain.


    Next up tearing down walls!

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    Reclaiming Balance

    Budgets are a reality. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to spend unlimited dollars for our remodels and renovations and our family is no different.  So, the question that comes to mind is where can we save some money and where will we be able to spend the money to make a great space without putting ourselves in a financial hole. It’s all about reclaiming balance.


    An area where we are saving money is in bathroom.  We don’t need a top of the line toilet, we just want a low flush toilet that will save water and gets the job done.  What that means for us is spending about $250-$300 per toilet as opposed to $400-$500 for the higher end models.


    Fortunately for us, the house already had a laundry sink in the basement that we will be moving to the mudroom area for laundry. It is a concrete wash basin sink.




    An exciting find for us, was a 48inch double concrete sink with cast iron legs for a base, which was in the basement of our office building, which we were able to purchase from our landlord for $200. Both sinks need a little spiffing up, but will look great in the spaces.  We have been researching and reaching out to contacts, to make sure we refurbish them correctly, to fix any cracks, replace the drains, and avoid future leaks and issues. Where we decided to splurge was on the kitchen faucet and went with a commercial pot filler by Chicago Faucet.  It’s a big expense but it will complete the look we are going for.


    dsc_9095dsc_9047dsc_9054Note: If you decide to go this route, make sure you have plenty of help to move the sink or an amateur engineer in the family, who can rig up something like we did to unload it from the truck, (see pulley system in picture).







    We found a claw foot tub from the local architectural salvage shop.  It is in great shape and just needed some cleaning up and a couple of coats of paint on the outside. I was able to sand and scrape the exterior, as well as the claw feet, apply a good primer, then finish off with 2 coats of white paint. After priming the clawfeet, and using a spray paint to match the chrome fixtures, it makes for a great combination. We have purchased a shower kit for it with a curtain attachment to complete the look we are going for.  Not pictured, is an antique pedestal sink for the powder room that was purchased at the same time.














    Tile for the master bath shower and the toilet rooms in the bathrooms was another area we saved.  If you don’t have a certain color in mind and are willing to be flexible, you can find some great deals at Home Depot or in the clearance section at your local home improvement store. The bathroom floors will be salvaged wood floors from the attic that we have de-nailed, and will be sanding and finishing with a low VOC oil finish.

    Things are really moving along now, so more to follow soon.





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    Wallpaper…and more wallpaper.

    So, now that all but a small bit of demo is done, what else is going on?

    Well, one of the things that we knew had to happen as soon as we saw the house was wallpaper removal.  Now, I don’t know about you, but the couple of times I have taken on this task, I have ended up, well, GRUMPY!!! I really don’t like doing it. I love to paint, you know the whole instant gratification thing, but wallpaper removal, no thank you.  In some spots, there were 3 layers of wallpaper, (see picture).  So, knowing that 90% of the house was covered in wallpaper, we put it in the budget, to have all of the wallpaper removed and to have  2 coats of primer put on the walls.



    Upon removing the wall paper, there was horsehair plaster throughout the house, which was not a surprise, and it needed some repair before the coating of primer.

    My husband and I very wisely hired a painting crew to come in and take care of this.  Now, some of you may say, why would you spend money on that, when you can do it yourself?  Did I mention it makes me GRUMPY!




    DSC_8939Believe me the money spent on this is well worth it for this family.  Now, I get to go and do the fun stuff and paint colors for that instant gratification thing I had mentioned. Because of the order of renovations, I have been able to paint our son’s and daughter’s rooms.

    I prefer Benjamin Moore paint as I like the way it covers and rolls out, this is purely a personal preference.  Some colors used so far are: Lavender Secret, Ballet Slippers and Hancock Green, all in Eggshell finish. All of the trim throughout the house will be Simply White semigloss finish.  I am looking forward to figuring out the rest of the color scheme, but we need to have walls up in order to do that:)



    Next time, I will share some of our “finds” that we will use in the house.



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    Recycle, Reuse


    One of the things we did in the house was demo the attic space, (pictured above prior to demo).  At one point, it was finished living space, with small bedrooms and a hall, so we removed the walls and ceiling.  We had the demo crew vacuum out the old insulation, which will be replaced with cellulose R50. Then we will be air sealing the attic.   Next, we will put down Advantech flooring so that we have all of the storage space available.  But, before all of that, a key part of the demo was to have the crew pull up the floors a bit more carefully then  just hitting it with a sledge hammer.  There were many square feet of wide pine that appears to have been put in the house over many years at different times.  So, they pulled it up and stacked it.



    Now comes the job of removing the old nails.  If you look at the various nails that were used, it creates quite a history timeline. The photo below is, in what we believe, to be chronological order.  There were the original nails which were the extreme pointy ones. The square nails are ones that would have been used next and were most likely manufactured by the Tremont Nail Company in Massachusetts,  (When the time comes to install the boards, we will be ordering the nails from Tremont to match the rest of the flooring). And lastly, the modern wire nails, which are the ones most people are used to seeing.





    We are going to reuse the flooring in the kitchen, mudroom and master bath.  The process to make the floor ready again is to, patch the original subfloor, and screw down a layer of Advantech subfloor.  When the time comes to lay the floor, (most likely after framing, although we are thinking of laying the floor first, as this is how the rest of the house is),  the boards will be cut square, laid as is, then finished in place.

    I have grand ideas of using the wood for a sliding barn door from the master bedroom to bathroom, but I’m thinking that will be a later project say after we actually have a usable  kitchen, bath and bedrooms.

    Stay tuned for more updates…


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    Now that we own a 1770 Colonial… Renovation time!


    Ok, so we have the 1770 Colonial…what now?  Well, although it is a bit daunting, decisions must be made and a budget, (yikes), needs to be created for the renovation.  (Full Disclosure, the budget was done prior to buying the house:)).

    There are certain things that are a must.  The baby blue bathroom in the hall needs to go, as does the avocado colored master bath.  The 70’s were awesome, with flower prints, lava lamps and for me, The Partridge Family, (Big Crush on David Cassidy), but not so awesome in the bathroom department.  But, don’t tell my mom, as she still has her bathrooms firmly planted in 1972.

    And, the bathroom changes in this house are not so simple to execute.  The upstairs hall bathroom in its current layout, is just too small for our family. So, we create the space we will need by taking out the back staircase from the first floor to the second floor and the stairs from the second floor to the attic.  The attic stairs will be replaced with a pull down to provide access to storage.  As a plus, this creates space on the first floor for a much needed mudroom/laundry space. Photos below show the hall bath and back/attic stairs followed by the demo results, as well as the master bedroom/bathroom before and after demo.

    To create the master bathroom, walls must come down between the bedroom, bathroom and a small bedroom behind.  Oh, did I mention that the kitchen is below the master bath and because of this the ceiling in the kitchen needs to come down for the plumbing, electrical, and mechanicals…Can you say MESS, DEMO, and spending money on things that aren’t new and sparkly?Unfortunately, we had a few surprises, not uncommon in an old house and demo went over budget 40%?  This is something to keep in mind when renovating an older house.

    While we are at it, we decide to knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room which will create an open floor space, which works well for how our family operates.  It is more cost efficient to do all the demo at once, plus you get the mess out of the way at one time. Photos below are of the kitchen/dining room before and after.

    How are we living in this house as we do this, you may ask?  Well, thankfully this wonderful house has a one bedroom apartment attached. So the 3 of us that are here, (thankfully our son is living at college this summer), are sharing one room that is our living room/bedroom and we are grilling a lot.  Come September, I’m thinking none of us will want to see another burger…

    Stay tuned for more updates…

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    You bought,… What?

    When people find out you own a ‘green’ construction business and you tell them you have bought a house, their first reaction is why didn’t you build a house?  Hmm…cobblers kids with no shoes?  And, what do they picture once they realize you have bought a house? Most likely, a small, efficient, new and completely ‘green’ house.  Well, they need to think again.  What if say, the wife, in this partnership, for example, is in love with old houses. Not just old but really, really old houses.  The kind with slanting floors and 3 layers of wallpaper on the walls.  The kind of house with ‘Character’.  Yes, I said character, the word that sends builders into a cold sweat, the word that is synonymous with a Summer spent in one room family living while the rest of the house undergoes a transformation.  Let’s not forget that the husband who originally said no to old historic homes has suddenly fallen in love with a 40×30 timber framed barn to hold all of his ‘treasures,’ aka his tools, trinkets, and all of the stuff  he couldn’t bare to part with. So the decision was made to buy this house with historic beauty that is hidden by layers of linoleum and wallpaper. Welcome to the Summer of sawdust, paint brushes, and creating our family’s home.

    DSC_8761DSC_8284 (1)DSC_8307

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