Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mayhem in May

We have officially moved into Big Orange! We had a weekend of moving May 20-22, and have finished cleaning out our former house just today, May 24. We close on our former house tomorrow morning, May 25.

Ben smiling: an empty moving truck.

All we can say is, "Whew!" I look at boxes and just stare, thinking, "I can't pick it up, I just can't." I've scrubbed and cleaned every inch of wood work in Big Orange, a veritable forest in itself, so much cleaning that my fingers are swollen and I can't get my wedding ring on.

Big thanks to Mom and Dad Cookston, Mom Davis, Don Collins, Phil Miller, Chris Williams, Joe Davis for helping with our move. You all made it possible.

We are living in Big Orange, camping style. We have yet to have hot water, the hot water heater is having technical difficulties. The only sink that works is the kitchen sink (the bathroom sinks leak - in fact, we're replacing the second floor bathroom sink).

We've heated water on the stove in large pots and bathed the girls in the kitchen sink. Ben and I have showered at our gym.

Last night we promised our girls that the nights of them being schlepped off to someone else's house, nights of mama and daddy working endless hours away from our kiddos are done. Though we have much work to do, the four of us are now in one place, sleeping in one place, eating meals (some) together, and seeing each other in the same home. It feels good.

Lauren happy riding her tricycle on the sidewalk in front of Big Orange.

Work has begun on restoration of the third floor exterior. Each day paint is scraped off the original cedar shingles. In a few short weeks (hopefully), damaged shingles will be replaced, fascia boards restored, eaves closed up, gutters installed and a new paint job will complete the exterior of Big Orange - and yes, we're keeping her orange.

Ben and I agree that this is the largest, most challenging physical endeavor either of us has accomplished in our life. And note the word, accomplished. We've renovated an historic home, in the freezing winter without heat, borrowing most of the power tools needed for the work, tiled three floors, puzzled pieced together ancient wood trim from piles of rubbish, created a functioning kitchen on a budget that no one thought possible, discovered craiglist as a valuable resource for all things to buy and sell, and basically earned ourselves a master's degree in historic home renovation by watching youtube and diynetwork videos.

The best thing about this endeavor is that we are still married. We have discovered new strengths about one another, as well as our breaking points. We have worked together as a team. We have disagreed and been angry with one another. This project is so big that the small stuff has seemed insignificant and not worth the energy to squabble about.

Perhaps this is an example of a better view of life. Life is big, messy, takes more effort than you think it should, comes undone at the worst possible moment, wears you out, takes everything you've got and then some, and yet is worth it when you discover that under the dirt, in the pile of rubbish, through the decisions that you wished would've gone another way, there is a sense of accomplishment that is astounding; a grounding that centers your life from the core; a security in the strength of relationship redeemed; a love permeating the very fabric of people and place.

This is phase I. Accomplished.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Butler's Pantry

For weeks we have been scraping paint off of the door frames, baseboards, crown molding, doors nd hardware in the butler's pantry. Ben started the process and Marlo finished it up.

During the paint scraging, we sprung a leak in the already drywalled butler's pantry cabinet and had to rip down the dry wall, fix the leaky pipe and replace the dry wall.

Now the butler's pantry has been tiled on the floor and we're ready for the grout to finish up this back entry to the house.

Final Push

We have sold our current home; buyer receives the keys at closing on May 25th.

We are "working, working, working day and night, day and night" to get Big Orange ready for us to live in, in just a few short weeks! Scraping paint, tiling floors, installing appliances, cabinets, countertops and cleaning years of grime off windows (lots of windows), all woodwork (lots of woodwork) and polishing floors (lots of floors).

This is truly a "Do It Yourself" project. Not a "reality show" do-it-yourself with a behind the scenes crew who does all the work after the cameras are turned off and the star of the show comes back to the set the next day and everything is done. Nope, this is working full time jobs during the day, picking up the kids, grabbing supper and working til the kids fall apart, putting the kids to bed and one of us going back to the orange house and working til the wee hours of the morning, getting a few hours of sleep and doing it all again. Whew!

Ben cleaning floors.

Until recently, the former owner of the house had left an old trailer filled with wood scraps in the back yard. We posted it on craigslist as "you haul it away, it's yours." Three guys came to look at it and decided not to take it. We were concerned that we wouldn't even be able to give it away for free! But finally, someone did come and remove it from our yard. Yeah. The space it occupied will make a great garden space.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Entry Video for "Rennovation Realities"

We applied to be on a TV show on the DIYNetwork titled, "Rennovation Realities." They contacted us, interested to see more of our project. This is the video we shot for the second round of entries. Enjoy.

Trimming the Trees

Work continues at Big Orange. Yesterday we had the three trees on the west side of the house trimmed back. Large limbs hung over the house posing serious threat during any major storm, as well as serving as bridges for squirrels to enter and exit the third floor eaves (which remain open until further renovation). Thanks to Mike Papai and his company who provided excellent service.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

First Floor Half Bath Progress

The downstairs half bath has also been tiled by our now resident tiling expert, Ben. This floor is a replica of original octagonal, white tile in the master bath. The grout (which Marlo is slated to accomplish soon) will be warm, french gray. The threshhold, a gray veined white marble.

The antique sink was given to us by friends, stamped with the date October 1937. The quaint faucet and handles are original to the sink. A faucet for hot and a faucet for cold point toward each other making one stream of water.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Second Floor Hall Bath Progress

Ben worked feverishly this past weekend installing porcelain tile in the upstairs hall bathroom. This was no ordinary tiling job. We decided to remove the radiator heating unit from the bathroom and put in a radiant heating element in the floor underneath the tile. Tiling over the radiant heat coils and mesh proved to be quite a skilled job.

Spending all day Saturday and Sunday, Ben worked by himself and produced a beautifully tiled floor that will be gloriously warm to the feet when we step out of the tub and on cold winter mornings.

Here is a photo of the tiled floor (yet to be grouted). The tile is a white procelain with gray veining. The grout will be a warm, french gray. The threshhold will be gray veined white marble.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Winter Work

We've been working on Orange House since December. As those living in the midwest know, it has been one heck of a winter. Snow storm after snow storm. Ice storm after ice storm. Below zero temps, days on end below freezing. These are the conditions in which we've been lovingly restoring our home without heat and without water (notice the needle on the thermostat it doesn't go low enough!). Small space heaters have provided momentary relief. It has not been easy. Here's a self portrait of what Marlo has looked like this winter.

Though the days have left us ready for a warm, comfy bed, the work is progressing. Here are a few additional photos of beautiful features of the home: a 9 foot, solid wood, quarter sawn oak pocket door (don't get your fingers slammed in this one!), an original light fixture in the side entrance hall (originally gas), the side entrance, glass top hall door that leads to the former cook's kitchen and back stairwell (originally sectioning off the working or maid's quarter from the family area), and the back staircase.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Okay, so I just had to upload a clip of the movie that EVERYONE seems to be referencing ... "The Money Pit" (1986) with Tom Hanks. My personal favorite part is when he gets stuck in the hole in the floor... You can see the original trailer on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmDX0tgONFs

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Starting to Eat the Elephant ... and a Raccoon

Quick post this morning, just to get a few updates out there...

We spent several hours at Big Orange over the weekend (that's the nickname that seems to be sticking) but not as much time as we would have liked. Why? Because the pipes froze and burst at our "other" house (i.e. the one we actually live in) on Sunday morning. I (Ben) left the garage door open overnight allowing this to happen, thank you very much. Spent most of Sunday in the crawl space and looking over the plumber's shoulder while we got things fixed.

Found evidence of a critter who really wanted out of Big Orange (photo below) - if you can't see it very well, it's a raccoon handprint by the window of a 2nd floor bedroom; actually, the wall was covered with his prints. There's a gap between the window and the storm so hopefully he made his way out okay.

Also, found a scrap of cool old wallpaper behind one of the radiators. It would be interesting to see how far back this pattern dates to!

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Stress Out

As the other owner of this grand home, I, Marlo, am posting for the first time and unfortunately it's not pretty. I'm admitting to having a melt down yesterday in regards to the kitchen remodel, or should I say the "kitchen in the making" since there is no kitchen currently. We're repurposing rooms, turning the original 12 x 12 single cook's kitchen into a laundry/mud room and turing the 14 x 20 dining room into the kitchen, since with modern living the kitchen becomes the social gathering place.

Some of the challenges are having two large, low windows on walls where cabinets need to be, wanting to use original butler's panty doors for upper cabinet fronts and needing cabinet boxes built, as well as using found original wardrobe doors for pantry front doors and also needing the box of the pantry built.

We purchased a nice kitchen island from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore store. It came with blue/grey corian countertops, one for the island and two more "extras". Problem is, I don't want blue/grey countertops. Yet with our very small budget, we're wondering if we can afford to purchase countertops for this large island and the base cabinets. I'm looking into concrete countertops...anyone know of a concrete coutertops maker who would be willing to give us a quote?

How to design the needed cabinets, counter space, appliance space and pantry space around the radiator and two tall, low reaching windows is quite challenging. Two kitchen deisgn guys have said it won't work. One said we're talking about creating a $50,000 kitchen. Um, that's not our budget. Other advice givers have said it can work, we're just not sure of the next step to make it work.

Wondering if we could dry wall over the windows on the inside creating space for kitchen use, leaving the outside of the house original, and have custom stained glass windows placed on the outside (originally, the house had custom Tiffany stained glass windows - so this would be in keeping with outside of the original house design).

For two novice restorers, this kitchen challenge is stretching my brain - trying to be creative with space, keep to the integrity of the house design, make it livable for a modern family, and work within a strict, small budget.