Tag "Five Years"

I know I already covered the “before and after” phases of the dressing room in part three of my house birthday posts, but last night I came across some “during” photos (I think from April 2006) that are just too amazing/horrible to not share.

These photos were taken after we removed the fake wood paneling, before the room was fully replastered. When I talk about our renovation having been a lot more than just “a fresh coat of paint,” this is exactly what I mean! I wish I had more photos of this stage of the process, but the truth is that I was too tired, too disgusted, and too anxious to move forward to think about documenting it.

Yikes, right? I always think it’s funny when I’m reading the comments on “before and after” posts on some other websites and people complain about the lighting being different or the the photos being taken from different angles. Its like…geez, I’m sorry I wasn’t thinking about my white balance when I was hanging off the ladder with a crowbar in one hand and a camera on the other, while wearing goggles and a face mask! Suffice to say, the difference here isn’t just due to daylight and a better camera.

Yes, I’ve already posted it (and I should really take a more up-to-date picture now that those doors aren’t in the hallway anymore, and one of them is actually hanging in the door frame—but I’m waiting until the window has been rehabbed to take new photos!), but here’s the room after it was replastered, repainted, and wallpapered. Much less scary!!

See also:
Five years ago, part one.
Five years ago, part two.
Five years ago, part three.
Five years ago, part four.

The fourth installment in my birthday tribute to my house is devoted entirely to one part of one room, the three windows in the bowed front of the living room.

There are 15 windows at Door Sixteen, and all of them are original to the house. All but three or four panes within are the original, hand-blown wavy glass, too, which never fails to amaze me—in 120 years, even boarded-up with plywood, that most fragile part of the house stayed intact. I can get pretty emotional about stuff like that. My house is a trooper.

Still, though, all of the windows were badly in need of repair when the house became ours. So far I’ve completely overhauled eleven of them, and plan to address the remaining three this spring. It’s time-consuming work, for sure, but really worth it. Somehow I managed to stretch out the repair of the three windows in the living room for just about five years from start to finish! Here’s a photo chronology…


I still cringe when I see that paint. Walls the color of spoiled mayonnaise with flat, goldenrod trim. It was awful stuff—not just the color, but that it was globbed on top of layers of peeling paint and seemingly applied with a dirty mop. And how sad is that dead hanging plant? I remember the hook it was hanging from being nearly impossible to remove from the ceiling.


Right after buying the house, I scraped off as much loose paint as I could from the window casings and painted them white (Benjamin Moore Simply White, satin finish—the same as all of the rest of the white woodwork in the house). I didn’t paint the sashes, though, since I knew they required major repair work that I didn’t yet feel confident enough to undertake. Adding another layer of paint to the mix would just have made everything harder in the long run, so I decided to leave them as-is “for a few weeks”. HAH! In reality, time stretched out to over three years before I even came near those windows again.



And then I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Out came the chisels, the razor blades, the scrapers, the tiny sander, and the dozens of other implements that I use to remove layers of paint, caulk, dried-out glazing, and other crud (and yes, on went the dust mask and goggles and out came the HEPA-filtered vacuum). With very old wood, sometimes it’s better to not completely remove all of the paint from the surface. That last layer of paint is sometimes so well-bonded to the wood (let’s face it, lead paint was nothing if not ultra-durable) that scraping it off can take a surprising amount of the wood itself along with it, especially if the wood has been damaged by sun or water over the years. I tend to take a minimalist approach to refinishing woodwork—I remove whatever paint is loose, peeling or chalky, and leave the rest.



This is the point you hit where there’s no turning back. If you’re fixing up your old windows, that’s the time to replace the old sash cords. Thankfully, whoever invented weighted sash windows thought to design a little door inside of the sash channel so they can be accessed easily (kind of). I won’t get into specific instructions here (check this old post for links that can take you to better sites to see how it’s done), but it’s not too scary. I promise. You really just need to know what you’re doing. In other words, have a computer nearby so you can frantically Google “replace sash cord tie knot” when you realize you have absolutely NO idea how to reattach the weight to your new cord.

(Also, make sure you actually have new cord—nylon clothesline is just fine—before you wind up with a dangling sash and a big open hole in your house. I am an idiot, and didn’t. Oops. I’m still not exactly sure how I thought it was going to magically materialize in the basement despite never having bought any.)



This is how you securely tie a sash cord onto a sash weight. You can thank me later.


Loose paint gone, old caulk scraped out, damaged areas filled with Ready Patch, everything sanded and smoothed, sash cords replaced and window stops in place…and then it all just stayed like this for another entire year. I don’t know why I didn’t just move onto repainting the windows right then. I should have.


In April 2010, I finally got around to stripping all of the paint off of the original cast iron sash locks (I use the crockpot method for stripping hardware). They were quite rusty and corroded, so I gave them my usual treatment—a coat of of Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer in flat black. I’ve used it on hinges, locks, backplates, and all sorts of other “active” parts over the years, and it’s never so much as gotten a chip or scratch. It really doesn’t look or act like paint, and it goes on so thinly that all of the decorative detail stays crisp.


Around the same time, I managed to paint the sashes, too, but I didn’t take a photo at the time (too exhausted and sick of it all, probably). This is how they looked up until a couple of weeks ago.

Ugh, so grainy! I’m sorry, I know nothing about taking properly-lighted photographs.

Of course, as soon as the sashes were all white and clean and pretty, the curtains I’d been using to hide them just seemed excessive. I’ve tried to love curtains, but I think I’m just not that kind of girl. I like shades and blinds. Simple. When you have three tall windows so close to each other, it’s easy to wind up with a wall of fabric that can be really overbearing. Enter cut-to-fit ENJE shades!


See? Beautiful windows! And it only took five years.

I’ve written before about the merits of repairing old windows rather than replacing them, and you should check that post for some really good window-repair resources.

Stay tuned for part five!

See also:
Five years ago, part one.
Five years ago, part two.
Five years ago, part three.

Part three of my house’s birthday retrospective is dedicated to the little spaces that are so often forgotten: The closets, hallways, pantries, entryways, and other areas that we take for granted by rely on constantly. In my mind, these tiny “rooms” are easy to renovate—because they’re so small, right? Well, as anyone who’s ever groomed an emotionally sensitive bichon/Chihuahua mix can tell you, smaller isn’t always easier. You get sweaty and gross faster, everything is a mess, you’re on top of each other, the ladder won’t fit right, the drill is too big…ugh.

More porch ceiling photos here

More kitchen pantry photos here

More dressing room photos here

More upstairs hallway photos here

More hall closet photos here

More office closet photos here

More downstairs hallway photos here


More vestibule photos here

I regret that I don’t have a real before photo of the vestibule. It was awful. Picture brown fake-wood paneling and lots of peeling green paint. And graffiti.

It’s funny, as satisfying as I know it will eventually be to look at progress photos, sometimes I feel like I can’t bring myself to take pictures of things in my house when they look truly, truly awful. Before we embark on any projects, Evan always asks me if I want to take a before shot, and so often I decline. He checks to see if I want to stop and take photos as we progress, too, but if I’m feeling frustrated or tired or dirty or crabby (which is a lot of the time, frankly—home renovation will do that to you), I just don’t want to. I always regret it later, of course, so lately I’ve been trying to get better about documenting what we do as we do it.

Stay tuned for part four!

See also: Five years ago, part one. / Five years ago, part two.

Part two of my little birthday celebration for our house is devoted entirely to the bathrooms. Seldom has any home renovation project taken quite as long as these two did. We spent months and months and months working the bathrooms. Months of sleepless nights, gritty floors, cracked fingers, and tears of frustration.

We have two bathrooms, thankfully (I always wonder how people renovate a bathroom when they only have one…). The upstairs bathroom is original to the house, and the downstairs bath was most likely added sometime in the 1940s, taking the place of what was originally a butler’s pantry.

As with the rest of our house, we’ve kept all of the original walls, windows and doorways intact, and have only replaced materials when the existing ones proved unsalvageable or unsafe.

So! Upstairs bathroom first…




As you can see, we decided not to continue with the Disney/Winnie the Pooh theme that the previous occupants had going on.

And just as a reminder that these things don’t happen overnight, let’s take a look at a couple of photos taken during the renovation process:


Yeah. I can still vividly remember the moment when I accepted the fact that I was not going to be able to salvage the original beadboard (it was covered in rock-hard mastic that probably had asbestos in it, and huge sections were completely rotted). I felt like such a horrible person. I was convinced I’d ruined the house. Looking back, of course, that seems ridiculous, but at the time it was traumatic.

The downstairs bathroom was more fun. We trusted ourselves (and Google) to do all of the tiling work, and we really did exactly what we wanted to do with the space—including installing 8′ tall wood paneling and an all-black floor. Yes, there were tears (what can I say, I’m a big, fat crybaby), and it took forever, but having more confidence in our work and not being afraid to trust our instincts really paid off. I speak for us both when I say this is our dream bathroom. It’s tiny, efficient, and happy.





I know, that’s a lot of photos! I’m still really proud of this bathroom, though. The upstairs bathroom had great original elements working in its favor (the tub, the sink, the radiator), but the downstairs bath was just…awful. Someone had done a terrible “renovation” on it about 10-15 years ago, and everything was either falling apart, leaking, or totally broken. The only thing we kept was the bathtub. I don’t even have true “before” photos that show the ramshackle sink plumbing in place. It was like a bad gas station nightmare.


We felt like champs when we finished that tiling job (our first!), let me tell you. It took a long time, sure, but it was easy. We didn’t have any special tools or experience, but we forged ahead, and it came out great. Anybody can do this stuff. Sure, hire the pros to do your plumbing and electrical work (unless you’re savvy and sure of your own abilities in that area, which we’re not!) and make sure you get any necessary permits and inspections, but don’t be afraid to trust your abilities to do manual labor and to learn as you go.

Stay tuned for part three!

See also: Five years ago, part one.

Five years ago this month, Evan and I were living in agony as we waited…and waited…and worried…and waited some more to hear about whether we were indeed going to be able to buy our house. The entire home-buying process was an huge, complicated mess that dragged on for months and came directly on the heels of having had two other near-buys (in Newburgh and across the river in Beacon) thwarted for various reasons. We felt sick and sad all the time. Buying a house in an economically depressed area can often be a challenge, but we stuck it out, and after much emotional upheaval, we finally closed on our house (in the middle of a snowstorm, the day after our car died).

I can’t imagine going through the process of buying a house again, but I’m still glad we did it.

These before and after photos aren’t all shot from the same angles, but I think they’re still fun (and dramatic!) to look at. Some were taken in January before the people who were renting the house at the time moved out, and some are from after we’d started ripping holes in the walls and generally making a giant mess out of everything, including ourselves.

Stay tuned for part two!