September 22, 2022

Where the Heart Is

Home. There are few things more important to many of us and I certainly claim that to be true for me. I grew up poor and without much stability. We moved a lot and I rarely felt a sense of belonging or of being rooted to a place. At different times while growing up, I have lived in a trailer, a motel, an uncle's basement, several times with my grandparents, rental homes and once an apartment in an area so bad that I feared for my safety just helping my mom bring the groceries in from the car.

All of this to say that maybe my longing for security, home, community and roots has had more of an impact on my life and choices than any other single thing. Also, I tell you this to illustrate that I never in my life imagined having a home quite like the one I'm moving back into in less than 4 weeks. I mean, it's not grand, it's still just my sweet little cottage, but every corner of the house and every inch of the garden has been considered, given attention and love and made into what is our particular idea of a dream home. And to us, it is indeed the most grand thing in the world and the place where we feel we belong and are rooted in. 

We have spent a lot of years doing without, working to pay off any debt and sacrificing to get to this moment. I spent 11 years with a kitchen that had handmade, 40 year old plywood cabinets, drawers that would barely open, little storage and tile counters that qualified as a science experiment. Throughout the house we had linoleum floors that had no seal and could not be kept clean, cracking drywall and ceilings, hideous tile, surfaces that were decades past their prime, space that was not well planned and general jack-assery every where we looked. The 2nd floor was added in the early 90's we believe and the integrity of that project is...questionable. We could have done a different kind of renovation many years ago but I am a pretty patient gal and I'm always willing to wait for what I really want and I absolutely HATE spending money twice. So we waited and made the most of what we had with our resources and created a home we loved while we planned and dreamed about renovating "next year" while one thing after another intervened with the dreams until finally we found ourselves ready. Then we had to wait yet another year for the contractor I was set on using, to be available. But finally here we are...nearly to the finish line.

We have invested no small amount of money over the years improving the house in the ways we could- a lot of time having to spend money that wasn't "pretty": new roof, gutters, hvac, sewer lines etc, some pretty money too of course: landscaping, opening up the front porch, a make do kitchen makeover etc. 

But one day we just got tired of picking away at it and we just wanted to be done and to spend the next chapter of our life enjoying our home and doing the fun decorating projects. And we've had a couple of reminders over the last several years that the future isn't guaranteed and sometimes you need to stop postponing for later and live for now. We decided to just rip the bandaid off and be done. This renovation snowballed a bit, of course things came up that we hadn't planned on- the house was built in 1900 so it was to be expected!

We are moving back into a home that at once is very different than the one we left, but is also much the same. Her spirit remains unchanged. We have worked hard to add back in the charm where it had been removed and to make choices that are appropriate for the age and style of the cottage. We have gutted the kitchen and dining room, the mudroom has been transformed into a Butler's Pantry/Bootroom, the fireplace has been refaced, every last piece of trim in the house has been replaced (and mostly by my guy!), The main floor bathroom has been completely redone down to the subfloor, the master bedroom and bath have been reconfigured to close the bath completely off from the bedroom, give us a giant shower, two (!) sinks, and each of us a small closet, the laundry area has been ripped out and a fresh clean slate provided. The entire downstairs received new hardwood flooring and the entire upstairs floors are getting refinished. We have added new windows in the kitchen and main floor bath as well as new french doors in the dining room and a new exterior door in the Butler's Pantry. Almost every wall, ceiling, door and piece of trim got new paint and on top of that we have added lots of insulation, shored up the structure with new beams etc., replaced plumbing, wiring, dryer vent, added attic access, insulation, drywall, beams to shore up the foundation and another new HVAC system for the downstairs. 

We have worked at the house almost every weekend for the last nearly 5 months. There have been times that the process felt unbearable. Being away from the house and the Village and our lives was hard. Watching the house get torn apart and stay that way for months on end with no pretty progress and bad news after bad news was hard. But then one day the tide turned. Pretty things started to happen, the momentum kept us going and made it easier to pay a mortgage and rent every month. The sleepless nights, never ending to do lists and constant level of stress were starting to pay off. We have poured our energy, money, heart and soul into this house and while we are exhausted from this year, more than anything we are so happy and proud of what we have accomplished and so beyond excited to get back into our home and get back to living our small, cozy, lovely life. We have absolutely no regrets and I know I will sleep better knowing that we have made our house as safe and stable as possible.

I wish I had been around here more but I have been doggy paddling to keep my head above water. I look forward to sharing more of the design after we get moved in. I am gratified to see it coming together the way I envisioned. Every single decision was tirelessly researched and chosen for a reason and while I made myself crazy (and probably those around me as well), I am so happy with how it is turning out-a dream that exceeds those of my childhood and a home where I can spend the rest of my life making the people I care about feel loved.

May 03, 2022

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

(Blue grey sample minus black glazing for mudroom tall cabinet, warm white cabinetry for the rest of mudroom and all of kitchen. Handmade ceramic sconces with antique brass fixtures for flanking stove and small metal circle Ilve stove sample)

I was going to say that I don't know where that 2 months went but I know exactly where it went. It went to planning, designing, sourcing, researching, choosing and ordering for the renovations. It went to sorting, packing, storing and moving our possessions- although the movers come Saturday for the big furniture. It went to the roller coaster and ups and downs that comprise life- the beautiful and the devastating hitting our circle of people and showing up where we can to do what we're able.

I am so close to being able to catch my breath again, to have time for yoga, tending to myself, making pretty things, reading, leisure time- all things in short supply since the beginning of the year. Things currently NOT in short supply: stress eating, eye twitches, general brain fog and forgetfulness, ocular migraines, irritation at people not doing their jobs, stiff hips, shoulder and neck tension.

(Kitchen cabinetry, stove sample, stove lighting, high gloss, irregular crackle Cafe subway by Walker Zanger, black sample representing Island lighting)

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about our renovations and why we’re moving. We will be moving out for about 6 months. We are renovating the kitchen, dining room, mudroom, main floor bathroom, master bedroom and bathroom. We will be refinishing the hardwoods upstairs and replacing the hardwood downstairs. We will be replacing trim throughout almost the entire house plus adding wainscoting and tongue and groove in areas and almost the entire house will be repainted. We are replacing the French doors in the dining room, the mudroom door and the kitchen windows. 

(Close up Walker Zanger Cafe tile in Milk)

Additionally we are doing built ins at the top of the stairs, replacing Emma’s shower and redoing our laundry area ourselves but those things may wait until after we move back in because my fella is doing almost all of the trim work, and all of the wall millwork. He’s gotten a good start for the last month or so but there is so much left to do. 

(Danby marble Imperial Select for kitchen and if there is enough leftover master and or main floor bathroom)

So you can see this is a pretty extensive project. We are working hard to stay true to the house and bring back the charm that has been stripped from it. We are moving some walls but not changing the footprint and we are not opening the space up. Some people might think it’s nuts to spend this kind of money and not increase square footage but for us this is about quality, function and beauty not square footage. Less but better is my motto.

(Master bathroom large charcoal tile for floor, warm white cabinetry, polished nickel fixtures, wood frame mirrors, antique brass sample for vanity lights and hardware, patchwork tile for shower floor and matte white large subway tile for shower walls)

And while a lot of you don't understand why we're doing this, let me explain what we've lived with since we moved in...the kitchen cabinets are few in number and homemade plywood cabinets that saw their best day 40 years ago (if ever) and aren't fit for holding more than the trash and recycling, the linoleum floors are patched, lost their protective coat well before our time and are IMPOSSIBLE to clean and they are linoleum, the kitchen counters are tile some of which is cracked, missing grout and is basically a science experiment that I wouldn't dream of setting utensil or food on. When preparing a meal, my work triangle is basically the kitchen, corner cabinets in the dining room and cabinets in the mudroom. Not even the slightest bit functional. The only decent things about the kitchen are the updates we did 10 years ago which you can see here. This was always meant to be a temporary solution. 

(Main floor bathroom: new shower curtain, bamboo hooks, oatmeal gloss subway tile for tub alcove and entry dresser that will be repurposed as a vanity but topped with marble)

And the bathrooms, well lets just say they aren't any better than the kitchen and haven't been touched at all. So obviously we are so excited to have clean, functioning, beautiful spaces that are a pleasure to spend time in. 

(Main floor bath with light fixtures that will flank existing mirror)

We've patiently (mostly) waited 11 years and sacrificed to get here so that we could do it exactly the way we want. Unfortunately with the constant rising of costs, we have had to shift some work to do later and are doing some things ourselves to balance the budget but also to make sure I can get the finishes I have been dreaming about for years in the areas that matter the most. 

So you see why it’s important to move out during this process ...with a hubby that works from home, two cats, an anxious dog and me who hates chaos and noise, there really wasn’t another choice although it's another cost that had to be figured in. 

 I'm really looking forward to documenting the process here so that we can look back on it in the years to come and because people say we won't even remember what the old kitchen looked or felt like. After 11 years I find that hard to believe but I look forward to that day!