Sunday, March 11, 2012

Renovation Realities

I have been intending to talk about our house renovations for some time now but I keep putting it off because the truth of the matter is, they aren't exactly moving along at a fast pace.  I wanted to be able to do some awe inspiring before and after shots of my smashing newly renovated farmhouse shortly after moving in but instead we have been limping along barely completing even a single room after two years time.  So I finally decided that the truth is the best story to share.  Although it may be a little ugly at times and fraught with bumps along the way.

With that in mind let me introduce you to our large living room or the piano room as we like to call it.  Although the piano isn't even located in there at this point.


This is what the room looked like the day we moved in.  Luckily I had the forethought to ask hubby to photograph the entire house before we put a single box in the door.  I knew some changes would eventually occur and I wanted photographic evidence of what it looked like before we got our hands on it.

You can see it's a large room with some nice light.  Two windows on each side of the room, one set facing north and the other set south.  Incidentally this is the room where I do my seed starting as it has plenty of good light and lots of space.

We didn't anticipate renovating this room right away (famous last words) but I decided this was the room my piano would live in as it was so spacious.  Pianos are best kept on an inside wall to keep them from temperature fluctuations and the only inside walls available had shelving on them.  So the shelving was removed and we found this.


Turns out the room had been painted green AFTER the shelving was installed (however did they manage that?) and now we had some lovely white stripes to contend with.  In all honesty the green wasn't to our liking anyway so our very first step was painting.


A good plan it turned out as we made yet another discovery.  Those framed mirrors you see in the first photo - we took them down and found they weren't really framed at all.  The mirror and the frame were hung separately and the wall space between them was painted.  From a distance you couldn't tell but when we removed the pieces we were left with large rectangular green patches on the wall.  Unfortunately we forgot to get pictures of that but if you look closely at the photo above you can tell where hubby had to do some extra priming to try and cover it up.

While I concerned myself with paint colours hubby had other things on his mind.  The 'abacus', as it became known, that hung over the entrance to this room was irritating him to no end.  As was the fireplace mantle.  Jody designs and creates furniture and works regularly with wood so these items immediately drew his attention as he  knew they were not authentic.  Our house dates back to 1880 - 1890 but has had extensive renovations in the past.  In this case someone had attempted to create pieces reminiscent of antique fixtures but 'faking' an antique well takes some skill and knowledge.  Although it was a minor thing it was decided these fixtures would be removed.

With the removal of the mantle we had yet another issue on our hands.  Despite the fact that there was no obvious fireplace there is actually a chimney behind that wall.  We briefly considered adding a proper fireplace to this room however our home inspector notified us that you cannot have two heating fixtures coming from one chimney.  In fact our insurance would become null and void if we had a fire!  The wood furnace that heats our house connects to this chimney in the basement so the hole on the main floor would have to be blocked.   $100 and some weeks later we finally found a mason to do the job.

We were so giddy with that job done we decided to leave our mark on this house permanently.


Patch up the drywall and add a few coats of paint and the room would be finished we thought.  Oh yes, did I mention we started this renovation in November of 2009?  Perhaps we might have been wrong.

42 comments:

  1. Marguerite,
    You just never know what you will find when you start to renovate a older house. It would have been fun if you had of found a money stash. Your house look like it has beautiful bones and I can't wait for another update. Nice touch with leaving a permanent mark of history.

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    1. One of the reasons we bought this particular house was the great work that had been done before us. Despite our lacklustre approach this house is relatively easy to renovate because of it's great bones.

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  2. Dear Marguerite, Oh, how I wish we had taken 'before' pictures when we renovated our farmhouse. Of course, it all takes much longer than expected, but I promise it will be worth it in the end. Love the wood trim in your house. P. x

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    1. One of the nice things about digging up these photos has been seeing how much we actually have accomplished. Some days it feels like so little has happened but when Jody saw the old picture this morning he was shocked at what the room used to look like. I was so lucky to think of photographs when we moved in.

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  3. As the Captain says.."all in good time". Drives me mad!!!

    We are just painting the inside of the house after how many years???? don't ask.

    Beautiful Piano Rooms, and very much the color of Anne of Green Gables.

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    1. A lot of the work (well nine tenths of it) is all done by my husband and the rest of the time is me nagging at him to get it done faster! Like the Captain he's in no hurry while I'm itching to have usable rooms.

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  4. Marguerite I remember thinking I would like my house and garden sorted out by the time I reached retirement age about 5 years after I moved in, it's now twice that many years and though the house is coming together the garden I think never will in my life time, you do have youth on your side, one day when you will have done many changes you will sit on the porch on a summer evening remembering today, Frances

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    1. Your comment Frances reminded me that our porch needs to be replaced. LOL. I fear that though I would love to get to a point where I can lounge and enjoy this house there will always be more work to do. But that's somewhat the nature of houses isn't it - and gardens too!

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    2. ah but Marguerite I said 'many changes' not everything! yes there is and will always be on going work, I would love a conservatory but know I can't afford one so just accept that, your house is much older than mine and I think both our houses had suffered some neglect by previous owners, good luck with it all, when I have got a bit down sometimes I remind myself how lucky I am to own a house and live in such a beautiful place, :o) Frances

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  5. Awww, everyone who has stripped a wall has left a mark under the improvements, and I love your hidden heart. Even though the house as you bought it needed renovation and wasn't authentic in all its details, I can see from this one room why you fell in love with it! (plus I have seen your exterior photos before, and it's a charmer)

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    1. I look at this old photo and it brings back a lot of memories of when we first saw this place. It was all so terribly exciting and even now I still sometimes wonder in awe that this place is actually ours. It was definitely love at first sight.

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  6. Such a good idea to take those photos when you were moving in. When we cleared our pond years ago on the base were the intials of the people who had made it. The date was 1946.

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    1. What a wonderful find! Your pond has lasted a good long while. We didn't think to date our artwork but I imagine one day someone will want an upstairs fireplace again and our handiwork will be discovered.

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  7. I too like that you have left your mark. Old homes have so much history and adding to it adds another layer.

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    1. One of my favourite things about this house is all the stories we hear about it. There's been a lot of families here over the years and we always learn something new.

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  8. Your renovations will be great to watch, from afar. We had our house remodeled in Virginia, took the contractor over a year....three years later the hurricane destroyed our first floor....another year of contractors doing mold remediation and then rebuilding. AUGH!!

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    1. oh Janet, that would have been so disheartening to come so close to finishing and then have it ruined. Does insurance cover hurricanes I wonder? (geez I should check my own insurance, we get the odd hurricane here too!)

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  9. I hear ya. One of these days I'm going to be done with this house too...
    I also play the piano and I got my brother to help me get the piano UPSTAIRS. I can tell you know...if I sell the house, the piano comes with it.

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    1. I didn't mention it but that was also a reason why the piano goes in this room. It's the nearest room to the front door! We didn't want to have to move that thing any farther than absolutely necessary.

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  10. When you first mentioned that your hubs hated the 'abacus', I saw what was coming. If you had your ear turned towards across the Northumberland Straight, I'm sure you might have heard the echos of my "Nooooooooooooooo!" and then again with the fireplace mantel removal. But as I read on, you say they weren't original to the house.... well, that's ALMOST acceptable in my books. LOL!

    I don't mind to tell you straight up that I would have put up a good fight to have them remain intact. That said, I'm not seeing them close-up and personal so they might have been poorly constructed and with your hubs being a builder of fine furniture, this would be like a constant eye sore in your face. Your moldings also caught my eye. Hopefully, they're in good condition and can remain.

    Will you leave the opening without the embellishments or will hubs put in something different? A house such as yours almost demands those finishing touches that define the beauty of it's former glory days.

    I love to see photos of your house and the reno process. Will you leave the wainscot natural or paint it? I'm not a big fan of too much wood but it certainly depends on how much it adds to the character. Looking forward to seeing more.

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    1. uh oh MIchelle, you may not want to read any further, what we did a little further along might make you want to scream! :0 It's funny but the woodwork in this house makes most people really excited but to Jody, as you note, it's a constant eye sore. He sees the lack of quality and the faked pieces and it just makes him cringe. I will tell you the entry has been left open with no embellishments and I love it now. The ceilings are much higher in that room but the abacus lowered the entrance making the room appear smaller than it was. Now it's very spacious and the crown moldings are much more noticeable.

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  11. Wow, what beautiful bones that house has. Even if it takes forever, I can't wait to see more.


    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. Stay tuned Jen, we haven't completed the room entirely but it's 98% done now (2 years later!). Of course the rest of the house could take the next 20 years.....

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  12. Great to have the pictures! I look forward to more posts. Hey, we're on year 5 of our kitchen renovation in this old farmhouse and we still don't have a back splash! Finally got new countertops this past summer and the back splash was suppose to be a winter DIY project that just didn't get done...yet! I wanted a proper hood fan for the stove but apparently that's going to be tricky in this old place - would have to run the venting sideways for quite a distance, so I'm saving up for that now!

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    1. oh dear, our kitchen needs remodelling and I'm terrified of that prospect. I'm adament that we need a plan, on paper, and money in the bank before we even think of taking that on. I spend so much time in my kitchen I can't imagine having it in renovation for so long.

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  13. Your house has lovely bones. I have a friend in NB who restored his old farmhouse, similiar to yours, over a period of years and the results are charming. Take your time and enjoy. So far, so good! :)

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    1. I think these old houses are just so lovely and it's neat to see how others redo theirs. Some people are really strict with authenticity and some make them very modern. We've vacillated between the two but I think we've finally hit a compromise that makes us happy.

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  14. I would be embarrassed to confess how long we have been renovating our home. Forever sums it up nicely! The hardest part is living in a house under renovation. Displaced stuff piles up and looks messy quickly. The only thing that you can do is to keep at it.

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    1. Jennifer, I understand completely. When we first moved in and neighbours came to visit I found myself making excuses for having just moved and the state of things. Now I'm still blocking them at the front door as I'm so embarassed at our perpetual mess.

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  15. I used to want to renovate one of these big old houses. It takes a whole lot more work than I would be able to do now. I will enjoy watching how your home evolves. Don't dispare. It does take time and it will be beautiful.

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    1. I think a lot of people dream about renovating one of these places don't they? There's something so enticing about them. Some people have told us they've been there and would never do it again. Others love it and would never trade this type of home for a modern one. Thus far I can say we haven't had any regrets.

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  16. I love seeing the evolution of your "piano room" and the original photo. Why is it there is always twice as much work to do as originally thought? And surprises? I guess that's what keeps it all "interesting"! Is that carpet on the floor? Linoleum? I guess I'll have to wait for the next installment!

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    1. Jane, it was carpet. In fact, real carpeting, with a backing on it. We weren't counting on that. I think the flooring situation will be a post in itself! Definitely have been a few surprises along the way.

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  17. I love the details in the structure of your house. And it looks like the changes you are making will make such a beautiful impact. My husband and I also find that these projects take us longer than we thought. I am looking forward to seeing the final product.

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  18. I love that you left your mark! I renovated an old home once. It took a LOT more time than I realized. In fact, I sold it before I finished it. The painting between the mirrors and the frames is crazy! Who would have even thought of that?!

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  19. You will always remember your first mark on the house. We are working on shelving and such for our rental loft and are still working on it a year later, for a rental. I totally understand.

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  20. ooh, looking forward to more pictures. We looked long and hard at buying a century house here before deciding to build. I love the old houses, and all their history.
    Keep sharing the pics!

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  21. Congrats on getting that much done!
    After 4 years I have a mostly painted living room and a kitchen that is painted we also insulated under the house last year, ran a gas line, and prepared to put a water filter system in. This year I'm hoping for a tiled floor, new gas top for my stove, new counter tops and a new sink, heck I'd like to get our doors painted too! But in truth this may take another year yet as teachers only have 8 weeks to play catch up with their lives out of the year. The rest of the time we are "just holding down the fort" as they say.

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  22. I just think your piano room is coming along nicely. I found that sometimes renovations take a long time when you have a garden also. Soon we will be back into the garden and the renovations will be held up. I feel like my last five years have been renovations and I'm about to take a break from building/painting/wallpaper/ and dust from drywall, ya think I'd have it done by now.

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  23. Renovations always take far more time than we think they will. It took us eight years just to insulate the ceiling downstairs (still no drywall, either). As for your piano room, the doorway trim (minus the abacus) and floor look quite lovely. Glad to see the green paint is gone, though....

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  24. I would love to see more of your beautiful old house. It's better that renovating the house takes a long time because you can only make the right decision on what to do after you have lived in it for a while.

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  25. OMG ! Marguerite .. we have been through renovation hell with the bathroom downstairs off the family room .. I swear our first contractor put a curse on it !
    renovations are "the money pit" and hardly ever finish on time or to our satisfaction ... I think our raccoon is a contractor and has been renovating our attic to suit himself ? LOL
    No .. there is no smell .. nothing really .. although we will have it sanitized when the company comes to do the clean up .. getting rid of any kind of attracting order to raccoons is HUGE !!!
    Joy

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