Another week down – I can’t believe it!
I feel like we didn’t spend as much time at the house last week as the week before. Which is probably a good thing. A little distance never hurt anyone. We spent 4 nights at VBS which was fun, but left us totally exhausted to even talk about the house much less visit very much.
Of course I say we weren’t there a lot, but Michael spent a good chunk of the weekend clearing more trees and brush. The yard keeps growing every time he spends a few hours there which is so exciting! One thing on our “must list” was a big front and back yard and we got ‘em both! 'm so eager for the day when I can just let our dogs out the back door and not have to worry about them bothering the neighbors or running into the street. And I seriously CAN NOT WAIT to have a space to entertain outdoors and to play! There are two amazing pergolas in the backyard that are in great shape once we pulled all the growth away. One has a swing that’s a little rickety and the other is just open space underneath. So pumped about that potential!
I always wanted a tree house growing up and so did Michael, so we’re considering one for Alice and Baby Sister. Of course now that I’m a paranoid mom, it will be approximately 6 inches off the ground…but that’s still cool, right? Also on the list is a garden. Our last home was in a neighborhood covered with trees (which we really did love) but didn’t bode so well for growing things sans sunlight. But we have proof in Mr. E’s leftover kale garden that it is possible!
We also have a pecan tree, walnut tree, fig tree, ornamental pear tree and a young paw-paw tree (hahaha!) in the backyard. I’ve only eaten a paw-paw once in my life from a roadside stand in Mexico, but we’re going to give that baby a chance. Any tips on maintenance of said paw-paw tree please throw them at us and we’ll bring you the first basket of fruit!
Also – all these decisions are getting serious. They really happen when you make them! We were at the house going over some plans for the kitchen and decided to open up all the doorways as high as they would go. While I was standing there they asked me a question about the door into the kitchen, I said, “I think we should go all the way to the ceiling?” and before I turned around they had the saw going full speed and that header was GONE! I’m not used to things happening quite that quickly so it was gratifying – and terrifying.
With both Michael and I working full-time, it’s hard to keep tabs on every decision and stay ahead of the curve. We talked this weekend about how a lot of people don’t accept responsibility for the construction timeline when they’re remodeling or building. A lot of delays last week were our fault because we simply didn’t have our minds made up – like about the exact fitting that would need to go with the clawfoot tub faucet or the size for the new window in the master bath. We're trying to preserve and add character to the house along the way and sometimes that’s sacrificed when you’re rushed with decisions.
So, we made a pact this weekend to do better at preempting those decisions so we can help the project along instead of hindering it and everything will turn out just like we are envisioning.
We drew out exactly how we want the back porch to look and function. Eventually we’d like to screen in the brick patio on the back of the house and have a wooden porch wrap around it for grilling, etc. But for now, we’re just adding a small part of the porch to the side of the patio so when you step out of the new door from the kitchen you don’t fall on the ground. They started on it today.
We also decided on what type of windows to put in the master bath and over the kitchen. The style of the house is very traditional, which I’ve already said is borderline our style. We lean more toward Old English Industrial Revolution instead of Southern 1970’s traditional and one of the ways we wanted to bring in more of that character was by having diamond-paned leaded glass in some key windows. Well, turns out, that’s hard to find. And pretty pricey when you do. So in discovery mode on my phone in the wee hours of Monday morning when I couldn’t sleep, I ran across regular wood-paned diamond windows which I think is a perfect blend of the old and new we are going for! As we say in the South, every once and a while a blind squirrel finds a nut.
The carpenters are sort of at a standstill because they’re waiting on the window replacements and the doors for the exterior and at the mercy of the electrician and the plumber on the interior. The plumber is close (especially now that we got him the part he needed for the tub!) and the electrician wired the master bath last week and is coming back next week to finish up.
Luckily, the house got a bath today and looks 1,000 times better so they can get back to working on some of the trim and the things that can be buttoned up on the exterior. I’ve learned lots can happen in just a few days’ time, so it could shape up to be a busy week ahead!
Alice has discovered Frozen. When there’s any downtime at our home (which isn’t very often) she says, “Watch a mofie!” and we’ll say, “What movie do you want to watch?” and she always says, “FROSSEN!” It gets even better because she thinks Olaf (the snowman for you lucky folks who have no idea what I’m talking about) is “Frozen.” At one point he falls from a cliff and she’s says, “Frozen fall down!” Just so stinking cute we can hardly stand to correct her.
Anyway, in the movie there’s this song called…Fixer-Upper! They actually happen to be referring to a man, but I can’t get it out of my head especially the line that says…You can fix this fixer upper with a little bit of love! It’s sort of my new mantra and I’m clinging to it because when it comes to our house I’m thinking it’s going to take a lot more than a “little bit of love.” But hey, makes for a happy thought.
So, this past week we’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. We’re at the point where a lot of the demo is finished and there isn’t a lot we can do physically so we’ve taken to our graph paper and Sketch Up as our contribution.
When I say Michael is good at everything, it’s for real. I downloaded the free version of Sketch Up on my laptop months ago and tried several times to start drawing the house. After I couldn’t even get the little lady in overalls to go away I gave up and felt better when I heard that even architectural students spend entire classes learning the program. But about a month ago I mentioned it and Michael says, “Let me try.” And I swear to you that three hours later he had the entire house drawn in detail. Show off.
We are soooo not designers and it’s been super helpful to refer to as we’re making decisions and trying to configure all new rooms like the kitchen and the master bath. When we started this project people kept asking if we were gutting the house and we would say…No, no, no. It really just needs some cosmetic work. But after standing in the foyer yesterday and looking around – yeah, it’s gutted. Like the only thing left is the staircase and some puny cabinets in the laundry room. And the remnants of a brick fireplace. And three hanging pendant lights. And some doors and knobs. But that’s it.
EVERYONE told us this would happen. It’s not that we didn’t believe you, we just…didn’t believe you. We truly thought we could save some of the cabinets, maybe the foyer’s hardwood, keep the bathtub in the upstairs shower. But as time went on we considered the fact that this is the only time we’ll have walls and ceilings torn down and the real opportunity to make these changes. So things just kept flying out the doors and windows and the whatever the quickest route to the dumpster was. It’s left us with a shell and I’m slightly overwhelmed, but mostly just excited about putting it all back together.
Since we now have a shell, the timeline and the budget are (much like Sir Galahad) in GREAT PERIL!!! But our builders are seriously awesome and are working with us at literally every turn to make sure we stay on track. They’ve been giving us lots of homework recently which is sort of fun.
Last week we stayed up late into the night – until 11:00! hahah! – drawing up electrical and plumbing plans. Having never done a total remodel before I was not prepared to make some of these decisions quite yet. Wait, I have to know where every light switch goes right now? I really have to decide where I want all the furniture so we can have proper receptacles by nightstands and TV’s? Where will the Keurig live? Um, well, I was thinking it would be nice to have it tucked away somewhere. Oh, you have to know? Like, right now? Ok, give me 24 hours.
So we made it happen. Plumbing and electrical plans are complete, hallelujah! And that’s really a weight lifted. Again, so glad Michael is good with spatial concepts. I would’ve never dreamed how many configurations you can give a 3’x6’ island so that a sink, ice maker, and trash can all fits while still having room for some bar seating.
Speaking of appliances – we picked those out too! Really we got so many things marked off our list last week I’m getting smug just thinking about it.
We chose a combination of appliances (all in stainless) because there wasn’t one brand I liked for everything. We went with Whirlpool for the fridge, microwave and dishwasher, but I didn’t like the handles on the Whirlpool ice maker so it’ll be Jenn-Air. I’m most excited about the range – it’s a Samsung Flex Duo that still fits in the space of a single oven but has two separate dual ovens so we can cook a family favorite of crescent rolls and a chicken casserole at the same time. Just call me Martha.
It doesn’t bother me at all that the appliance brands won’t match, but the owner of the store said you’d be surprised at how many people order the decals for a higher-end or matching brand and put them on their appliances. Isn’t that awesome?! I think we’ll get Sub Zero decals and put them on all of ours.
Michael and I had a day-date on Saturday to visit lighting and plumbing supply stores in Huntsville and it was really productive. We priced all the faucets and fixtures for the kitchen and baths. As we were browsing we both kept coming back to the same collection of Delta faucets, Cassidy, which is a sort of antique looking collection that we really like. I joked at one point that maybe we should name daughter #2 Cassidy (because with all these other decisions for the house, who has time to consider baby names?!)
One of Michael’s must-haves is the ice maker and one of mine is a clawfoot tub for the master bath…which was by far the biggest ticket item on the quote. We’re going to shop that around a little so if you have suggestions for sources, we’re all ears!
Wrapping my head around lighting was harder than I thought just because there are too many stinking choices. We did hit up two lighting places and got some good ideas. I’ve heard Wayfair and Bellacor have really good deals and prices, so that could be another place we can save. Having a local, family-owned business we are really big on “shopping small” (plus you get way better customer service!) but I wouldn’t consider these places small so I don’t feel too bad scouring The Internets to save a buck there. Or again, up for suggestions.
I did fall in love with this Restoration Hardware piece for above the clawfoot tub, and look! It’s “on sale” for only $550. (Can you feel the sarcasm dripping from my fingertips?) Oh well, I’ll just find something similar somewhere. I follow this really neat blog called Copy Cat Chic that always has great finds like this, so I’m keeping my eyes peeled.
Our last stop after a yummy brunch at Another Broken Egg – y’all those biscuit beignets OMG – was Southeastern Salvage. We’ve loved this place for years and are so excited to be able to take advantage of it now with a project! Before we even owned the house we visited and I had a vision when I saw this Carrara marble tile mosaic for the master bath shower floor. We needed 16 sq. feet and when we got there we bee-lined for the tile section and snagged the LAST box with 11 sq. feet and after some digging came up with 8 more pieces at $6.88/sq. foot which is less than half what you can find it for in box stores or online!!! So that was a win for the budget, for the bathroom and my soul.
Yesterday we met with the cabinet maker. Originally we thought our builder had a guy on his crew that could take care of us in that department, but it quickly became evident that we have a need for far too many new cabinets and had to get someone specific for that job. I’m sure he thought I was crazy when I handed him a 24 page packet detailed foot-by-foot (with photo illustrations, of course) of how I want every cabinet in the house to look and function. But we were on the same page and he does great work.
We’re waiting on a quote to make final decisions and I’m already preparing myself to have to scale back from what I gave him, which I’ve learned is just part of this process. Ask for the Taj Mahal and land somewhere just south of there…like maybe the Maldives…
Last week was a fun one! Since Michael was in Mexico (and is safely back now, thanks for the prayers!) I was the one who got to check on the house every afternoon. I was like a kid on Christmas morning going in to see what had changed from the day before.
I will confess. I may have lost my vision and my excitement there for a few weeks once the house was officially ours. Last February when we took our first look at the house I could really see it becoming something special, but then we paid for it and the reality set in that there's a lot to be done on a fixed budget and it was hard for me to get past all that.
This week helped me get my groove back! With all the old (read: nasty) flooring gone, the cabinets and fixtures removed from the bathrooms and the WALLS REMOVED I was able to see it, really see it, again. This place is going to be cool.
The first few days of last week progress seemed slow, but they were able to get all the popcorn off the ceilings, most of the wallpaper off and the bottom cabinets pulled out from the kitchen. On Tuesday our builder brought us two old Polaroids of the house when it was first built. I'm a super visual person and being able to see the house clean and well-kept was really an inspiration to dig in and fight for this home. No wonder the neighbors give us hugs when they see us! It would be so sad to watch a beautiful home like this on your street fall into such disrepair.
We'd been working on getting some antique doors for the front of the house, the "service entry" (that's what Mr. E called it and it stuck) and the door we are adding off the kitchen to the back yard. We visited Southern Accents in Cullman, AL several weeks ago to see what they had. If you live in Alabama and have never been to this place I highly recommend you go. It is just the coolest. We will be headed back for other pieces for the house for sure! We found the two single doors we needed easily - one from Chicago way back when. The other we didn't get the history on. But the opening for the front door is like 54 inches wide (which is weird - for those of us who know nothing about standard door measurements) so we ran into a little trouble there. We ended up falling for a set of antique double doors from Philadelphia that were actually already spoken for. But this week they became available again so I snagged them up!
On Wednesday, I picked out garage doors. The problem with having to pick out garage doors means we also have to pick out exterior colors already which I am going back and forth on because...
I want to paint the brick. Michael does not. We typically agree on everything, but this happens to be one topic we're both pretty set in our own opinions. My side of the story is: the brick is sort of a strange, orangey color that I'm not super in love with. I also just happen to be obsessed with painted brick - actually whitewashed or smeared brick, either one. Michael's side is: he thinks the brick adds to the old English flair of the house which is part of what made us fall in love with it in the first place. The brick is a very special, antique, wood-molded brick that's hard to find and pretty pricey. He's afraid we'll regret painting over something with all that history. And you can't take it back.
What we've decided to do (for now) is leave the brick for two reasons. 1.) I may love it once the trim is repaired and painted, new doors and windows installed, landscaping done and the bow tied on the house. 2.) We actually don't have space in the budget to paint the brick right now anyway. ;)
So, I'm struggling with paint colors for the trim, siding and shutters/doors. I know I don't want the trim to be white or anything with a yellow tint at all, so I'm leaning toward Sherwin Williams Felted Wool and Amazing Gray - it's a toss up for which would be siding vs. trim right now. For the shutters and single doors, I'm thinking SW Charcoal Blue. (?!?) The front double door I expect will be stained with a pretty antique-looking glass in the windows. We're going to do a test of some of the paint against the house soon so I can get a visual and go from there. I'm up for suggestions on anything you've seen look good against similar brick!!
Anyway, back to the garage doors. Our builder suggests picking out a garage door that is already a color (aka: you don't have to paint) because they last longer and require less upkeep. I want to make sure they match the trim colors as best possible...again, paint dilemma. I went with garage doors without windows to save a little money. Plus, the garage has plenty of windows already. We are going to add some interesting hardware which will match the style of the house and blend really well.
The best day was Friday when I walked in to a completely open new family room!!! Y'all I wish I hadn't been alone because I was so excited! It is a NEW HOUSE with all that natural light coming in and the open feel of that big room. It makes the whole house feel so much more welcoming. I can't get over it! The wall between the kitchen and dining room is still braced for support so it wasn't quite the same, but I could still get a feel for what it will be like.
The house was clear from most of the demo debris, and the master bath space really opened up once that was the case. I was even able to stand at the door of each room and think of the type of furniture we are going to need to make this house a home!
About the author:
Andrea is an Alabama girl with a love for travel, tea and books. She is mommy to daughters, Alice and Eleanor, and wife to Michael. Together they are tackling a fixer-upper to make it their home for years to come.