Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home (on the Range) Improvements

When I first purchased Home on the Range I was surprised the house had been on the market for a year and a half. The setting out in a rural community was beautiful, and the price a lot less than I expected. Then I walked in. Let's just say it needed some "updating". The landscaping was beautiful and the house itself, spotlessly clean, but the decor was dark and Victorian, and though there were some good windows, they were all covered up with heavy wooden valances and dark drapes.

Then there were the surprises. Home improvements done by others who, let's just say, should have left well enough alone.

But I persevered. Ripping our drywall, making rooms bigger, windows released from the heavy valances to open sun, new drywall, new tile, wood moldings, paint, fixing up a sun room which is now my office and Barkley's favorite nap spot on the little love seat therein. I did most of it myself,but after the initial frenzy when I first moved in, the work has settled down to bits and pieces of updating. New tile in the kitchen this last Spring, this next Spring a new roof and updated shop if the money's there. I plan on totally gutting the kitchen, but for now, paint, new tile and ripped out the flower wallpaper. It's definitely better than it was.
PINK KITCHENS. Always a crowd pleaser.
Much better.There's a huge formal dining room where I have a glass topped table big enough to feed a crowd but I prefer my little breakfast nook if it's just one or two people for supper, or a nice Breakfast on Saturday as the sun comes up over the pond.It HAS been a project.

For example. Guest Room #1. Well, here's what I started with. Yes that is PINK and RED
That's a little better. No pink cabinets. Big bed, grey walls.

Then there was a nice little living area off of the kitchen. Dark flocked pink wallpaper, low ceilings and dark. It about took C4 to get that wallpaper off of there.
This is better. 20 foot ceiling, at it's peak over the kitchen, part of a wall knocked out, and wide open. A door to the back deck with glass for more light.
The pink and dark living room? (No picture, it was THAT dark) there on the other side of the wall above? A wall cleared out, a perfect spot for Christmas with those I love.
And of course the guest room bathroom,. The vanity took up most of the room, making it look even smaller and yes it was pink with a cheap plastic counter. Think Barbie's not so dream bathroom.
But I could picture it taking shape, with odds and ends that I picked up with a vision in mind. A mirror, to hang over the vanity,that was made out of a beautiful piece of furniture to with a marble top and sink were added.

The floor made a huge difference, a synthetic tile that looks and feels like stone under the feet. The sink and mirror and lighting fixture, I raised up a few inches, as I'm tall, as are most of my friends. Not a noticeable difference unless you're a guest trying to shave in a mirror that's too low. The toilet and tub were in good shape, Just a general clean up and some fresh paint.

The walls are a Sherwin Williams color called Leather Bound, that, with the texture of the walls, look like rich warm amber leather. You can't quite tell the true color from the picture above, it's actually darker and richer than what that appears, but you get the general idea.

Then artwork. A leaf which I collaged over a piece of old fabric, hand stenciled and framed.

The lighting is subtle, with amber frosted glass, some dried flowers and some big soft towels. Old fashioned yet comfortable.

Still, I'm really pleased by how it turned out, especially since I did the whole thing for just a few hundred dollars.
When that room was done I could really feel how tired I was as I gathered up the fabric that will make the shower curtain up, a rich dense tapestry of material of browns and reds and golds, shining in the sun, I admired my handiwork, work that took up days, with as much breath and punishment, vision and euphoria as such a project entails. I was almost happy to have it done.

Hard work yet rewarding work. A good shop and a home that's self sufficient in times of problems is good. And tools. Did I mention tools? :-)

But enjoy hard work and the many things we learn about ourselves as well it. Small things, a house of new dreams.


  1. Beautiful home and thoughts. Ya done good lady and I am sure that your mom is looking down with a great deal of pride at the woman that her little girl has become.

  2. Great work, and a great post. I still have some of my Dad's tools; his micrometers and calipers and scales. The things he used to teach me the basics of working with metal via a lathe, drill press, milling machine, and surface grinder. Some of the hand tools like wrenches were HIS Father's, and I've passed those on to my son.
    And the gf and I are just finishing up a marathon kitchen floor tile project. We started Saturday by pulling all the appliances out of the kitchen. Sunday was linoleum removal day, and my two buddies who install tile for a living came by Monday afternoon and put down the backer board. One of them started laying the tile this morning, and he's almost done. Tomorrow they grout it, and then the next day seal it. Friday will be reinstall day, unless she decides to paint the kitchen, which she's leaning strongly to do since everything is out of it. That entails patching some nasty cracks in one wall that *used* to be an exterior wall before the kitchen was added sometime in the 70's.
    Like a said, a marathon project, not to be stopped until it's finished!
    Ahhhh....but as you know, it looks Soooo Goood when you're done!

  3. I know the satisfaction of hard work rewarded, IN 6 years I probably put 3000 hours in restoring an old Craftsmen style house. 8" mahogany baseboard" 4" mahogany window and door trim, beautiful wood steps, and I had to restore every inch of it through the whole hose.

    Oak floors downstairs, three rescued from the linoleum monster(two TARPAPER linoleum)the others refinished. Maple upsatairs, 4 rooms also refinished.

    Kitchen de-modernized and a new, old style garage. New paint through out.

    Gave it to her at the divorce, no equity in it anyway, she sold it 9 months later. Sigh.

    Maybe someday I will do it again, or maybe that little log cabin with a HUGH shop will be in my future some day.

  4. Looks like a really nice (and much needed) remodel. Too much pink - ugh!

    I agree with the time travel to vaporize the incompetent. If they can't do home improvement projects properly then they shouldn't be doing them at all. Wiring is one of my major pet peeves since it can easily kill you or the next person and I have almost completely rewired my house due to Dumb and Dumber working on it sometime in the past.

  5. Good Post, thanks for sharing

  6. WOW! I had no idea.

    You have a beautiful house, but until now I had no idea of the challenges you had to overcome to get it that way.

  7. I was a building inspector in a former life (okay, former career) and have seen enough bad work to last for awhile. I must say your work looks excellent.

    Why am I not surprised?

  8. You are very talented in everything you do it seems.

    I got something in my eye it seemed when you were were writing about your mom's robe and memories.


  9. Brigid, beautiful work. Some of my best memories are working on various houses with my Dad. I don't recall a house we ever lived in that didn't need work. One of the most fun projects was making tongue and groove wainscotting from scratch for a turn of the last century house. Great fun!!

  10. I don't like C4 for most wallpaper removal. Usually Tannerite does the job for me. This must have been really stuck.

    And I don't know your Mom, and can't speak for her, but I'd think that she'd say her little girl sure did a nice job on that house.

  11. You have a beautiful home, thanks for sharing not only that, but your thoughts as well.

  12. Everyone has a hero. I have Wowbagger.


    PS - Needless to say, a proper comment will be forthcoming once I've had a chance to read this again, more thoroughly!

  13. The best decision of your life is getting rid of the red and pink. I got a headache looking at it. Now I must admit I do like a settled rose color but that pink was over bearing.

    It appears that you have made excellent progress in both the house and your life, I salute you.

  14. you have a nice one there. God Bless.

  15. Wow. What taste. I'm really impressed with the before and after.

    Really nice job!

    Of course, we won't spill the beans that Barkley would have done the renovations if he had opposable thumbs.

  16. But wait! What about the kitchen? I demand to see the famous kitchen!

    Seriously, Brigid, beautiful home. I absolutely love to remodel, improve, and restor.

    I've no doubt your Mom smiles down on you with Love and Pride.

    Thanks for a great post.


  17. Wallpaper. Ugh. Boomer women seemed to be in love with that stuff for decades, and, when we were in the market 10 years ago in Florida, it was hard to find an existing house which wasn't filled with papered walls. We settled for a house with some paper, but just in the bathrooms.

    The scariest discovery I made in our house was during last Christmas vacation's ceiling fan replacement project -- the existing fan above the bed in our master was held in place by two self-tapping screws driven through a thin aluminum plate! What were the previous owners thinking?

    (Yes, the ceiling beam was available right where the fan had been mounted.)

  18. Me too! THE KITCHEN. It's the kitchen I want to see.

  19. Wow, I know exactly how you feel having remodeled every room in our home over a couple of years.

    There is nothing quite like the feeling of looking at something you've done and knowing it was you.

    Well spoken.

    Mr Fixit

  20. Yeah! The kitchen!

    In many ways you can simply interchange "tools" and "guns". The quality ones were built to last and are handed down through generations. They serve their purpose and do it well, and hold memories passed through their use.

    Maybe you didn't get to say it, but your Mom knows.

  21. Beautiful home, great craftsmanship. Lot of work but well worth it and you did a fine job. Your Mother (& Dad) would be (and I'm sure are) very proud of you. A true Renaissance woman as iterated by RAH.

  22. I like the DeWalt AR. I have seen pictures of a Milwaukee AR.

    Nice remodeling work, too!

  23. Home Improvements are always a bit trying at times but by looking at some of those pictures I can bet you are happy with the outcome.

    Not much better than the feel of accomplishment.

  24. Wallpaper is a disease. Heavy valences are an abomination. Love your high ceilings, ours are 12-ft. and greatly add to the livable dimension and light - light is everything.
    Next for me is to re-do our hallway bathroom ceiling, and install a quieter fan that draws more air.
    And then there's the kitchen...

  25. Looks like you've done a wonder with the place. Having went through it not once but twice (OK, once and a half, #2 isn't done quite yet), I know what it's like.

    We looked a a house that had a similar color scheme as yours once. Pink carpet. Pink Walls. It seemed the air in the place was Pink. And bowls of potpourri everywhere.

    Oh yeah, and porn movies on a shelf in a closet. We decided against that one. Just had the wrong vibe. :-)

  26. Over the years, I've moved a bit, mostly around KC from apartment to rental house to home and then other. One item has always made the trip with us, currently in our hallway guest bathroom is a shower curtain printed to duplicate VFR charts from all over the midwest.

    It's MY souvenir from my flying days.

  27. I've remodeled room by room also... mine is a small-to-mid-size Victorian circa 1910 or so. I went away camping for four days, and one of my best friends (on whose house I've also done a LOT of work) decided to remodel my downstairs half-bath as a surprise while I was away.

    I came home to find the bathroom gutted, the new wainscoating installed, the floor tiles yet to be done, and the fixtures (same toilet, new pedestal sink to replace a similar nasty vanity to yours) sitting in the kitchen. Took him a little longer than he thought it would.

    It turned out nice.

    I love him like a brother, but someday I'm gonna kill him. ;)

  28. Beautiful home.

    I know your Mom is proud of you.

  29. Well done. I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite books, Wind In The Willows. 'What a capital little house this is!' he called out cheerily. 'So compact! So well planned! Everything here and everything in its place!

  30. You never cease to amaze me. Great work...almost makes me want to have a house again.

    Your mom would be proud.

  31. OK, OK, guys I added a kitchen picture. Eventually I'd like to replace the cabinets and do the granite counter tops but considering what it looked like to start and how little I spent (other than elbow grease) I was pleased.

    I'm glad you all like it. It's bigger than I need for one person (2800 square feet) but it's HOME.

  32. I like it. It's rugged yet feminine.

    I know what it looked like before, the rooms you don't show are just as amazing, before and after.

    You did good sis.


  33. Been there, except our house needed to be gutted to the studs and rewired and replumbed, while we lived in it with four kids. It was worth it though because we got the house wanted in the location we wanted. Beautiful work on yours, its really nice.

  34. Another evocative incredible post.

    The reason that "Home on the Range" is a daily read for me.

    Thanks for the fine work on this Brigid.

    Angry Conservative

  35. You also need an Aga stove for that kitchen.


  36. I know how you feel about the tools, especially the ones from your father.

    When I pickup my dad's hammer, yes the one that was lost in the yard for several years by me in a much younger day, I can feel his spirit near. As if a ghost, from across nearly thirty years since his passing, is guiding the tool.

  37. Beautiful work. I particularly like the island with the sink, but I can't say why.
    My wife insisted on an island when we moved into the Refuge, it's probably the single most useful change we have done so far.

  38. If we had an actual house, I'd be very tempted to put in some sliding or spring-loaded panels and secret passages. In fact I think that would be a priority.

  39. Brigid,

    Outstanding work. The Wife and I have had an ongoing project to update our home from the previous owner's Brady Bunch Interior Design fetish since we purchased it (no home built in 1895 should ever be shamed with shag carpeting and plaid wall paper). And we also had a bathroom in Pepto Bismol pink when we moved in. Horrifying color.

    There's few things as satisfying as making something substantial with one's own hands, especially when the end result is something for daily use.

  40. My Dad and I used to make good money off the people who knew the work was too much for them. We used to make great money from those people you wanted to phaser.

    If you phaser them out of existence, they don't suffer or learn from their mistakes. If a 12 year old boy looks at their work and has to leave the room for a minute for diplomatic reasons, well you can bet your bottom dollar that they suffered for their misdeeds.

  41. Ok, proper comment:

    The work you've done here speaks to the lessons your parents taught you, and your perseverence in applying them. The results speak for themselves. I would be proud to teach someone to do that, and you can certainly be proud for doing such a job of it.



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