Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn in the City

My street, October 26

First I want to thank everyone for their wonderful comments about my house.  I've put a lot of effort into transforming my little urban cottage and I'm thrilled that others can appreciate it too.  I've been so rapt up in the project, I feel like I lost an entire summer but it was hard to miss the autumn color this morning.  We had some rain last night which always intensifies the color and morning sun made them almost florescent. 

The color peaks in late September, early October in the northernmost parts of New England and moves south toward Boston.  In another week or two, all of the leaves will be gone.  I think we're at peak right now in the city but I don't recall seeing color this bright in a long time.

I love spring and summer and I always lament the onset of autumn but with color like this, how can you not enjoy it?

I think autumn is starting to grow on me.

Even in the middle of downtown Boston, there's fall color to enjoy.  This park just one block from my office used to be a hideous two- or three-story cement parking garage.  The owners demolished the garage, rebuilt it underground and added this beautiful park.

This is a entrance to the parking garage.

During summer months, the park is literally packed with people enjoying their lunch hours sitting on the grass.  (The park hands out mats to sit on.)  I enjoy it most in the morning when people are scurrying to work, too busy to enjoy a few moments outside.

The park has a full-time staff of people constantly sweeping, washing, watering, trimming, planting and trimming to keep the park pristine.

Even when you live and work in the city, there are plenty of places to enjoy the amazing colors of autumn.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exterior Paint, Before and After

You may notice that I've changed the photo on my header.  When I started my blog, I borrowed the facade of another...

...Cambridge Greek Revival.  I'm happy to be able to retire that photo and use an image from my own house.

When you last saw the house after the columns were installed, this is what it looked like.  

A coat of paint went a LONG way to unite all the different materials and colors.

This is what it looks like as of this morning.

Isn't the difference amazing?

I don't think I've ever shown this photo.  This is what house looked like when I bought it.

I did a lot of simple projects, always working on the ugliest thing.  I replaced the wrought iron posts at the front porch, repainted the foundation, removed the chain link fence, installed a new cedar picket fence, planted a few shrubs, painted the ugly aluminum door and moved the main power line that ran down the front of the house.  The cedar fence was quite expensive but the rest of the projects were done as weekend projects for relatively little money.

All of these projects resulted in the house you saw when I was applying for my variance in April.

(Click on any of the photos to enlarge.)
And here is the house today.

Remember this view?

The paint totally integrated the original shingles into the new work...and saved me a lot of money.

The beadboard ceiling is painted sky blue.  (I'm not sure why the crown molding is painted blue.  I wouldn't have done that and I'll probably change that.)  Just waiting for the new light to be installed. 

And all the old wood trim on the pediment was scraped, primed and is now looking really great.  (The "Head of the Charles" crew races are taking place on the Charles River this weekend and I just happened to catch a plane pulling an advertising banner in this photo.) 

Here's another old photo of the house when I bought it.  This shows the old deck railings and the handicapped ramp that was attached to the back porch along with a sidewalk that ran across the entire yard to the front door.

You've seen before what I did with that space.  

This is that same view today.

I had to exclude the back porches from this phase of the overall project and they're looking a little tired and sagging but a coat of paint should go a long way to helping them blend in.

The porch ceilings are beadboard and were quite water damaged under the old vinyl siding but hours of scraping and priming by the painters have really cleaned it up.  See why I was worried about color of the primer?  It's WAY off from the color I chose.

Here is the pilaster at the back corner of the house.  The upstairs deck railing was too short to reach the pilaster after the three layers of siding were removed so we added a post and tied it in. It's good enough for now.

(I put a coat of paint on the front door since I took photos this morning)

The sidelights will hopefully go in this week and the rest of the windows should come in the next few weeks.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Concessions, Splurges and a Preview

Doing a renovation requires a lot of decisions that involve money.  Sometimes there's a fine balance between what you want and how much it costs.  One of the things I've found helpful, as I did with the Louis XVI chairs, is to study the details of expensive options and then look for something with similar details that's more in tune with my budget.  You may remember this light fixture from my Chinoiserie for your Porch post.  I'm glad I didn't fall in love with the light because at $1200, it wasn't even a consideration.

You may also remember this entry set on the left with the crystal knob on the inside.  This would have been a splurge at nearly $400 but I found the Schlage entry set (on the right) at Home Depot for $144.   It doesn't have a crystal knob on the inside but it looks very similar on the outside and gave me an extra $250 to work with.

You may also remember these $24 lights I bought for the front and back porches.  Last week I had a friend hold up one of the lights on the front porch.   The large beam supported by the columns... 

...covered up half of the light so all you could see was...

...this big udder hanging down between the two columns.  It looked REALLY silly.  Sometimes you just can't plan these things.  So I went back to the drawing board to find a light that was a short pendant.

It's fairly easy to research details for a historical house; there are plenty of real-life examples and/or books to look at.  But deciding on a light fixture for a house that was built before electricity was invented is a more difficult task for me.  There seems to be a big gap in styles between what I perceived as Colonial (think Paul Revere) and later styles such as Victorian and Art Nouveau.

After my visit to Marblehead where I saw a lot of these onion lanterns, I did a little research on them and found they were used on whaling ships and as a work light into the 1800s.  The round glass helped shed water and protect the flame from blowing out while the cage protected the glass from breaking.  If you've ever been Cape Cod, you probably saw them everywhere.

So I traded in one of my $24 lights for this onion lantern pendant. I hope it works out better than the udder light.  I do think this round light works better against all the straight lines of the house but I also think this choice is a little bit of a copout.  You see these lights quite a bit but you'll see in a minute why I chose it.

These Baldwin house numbers sell for about $10 at Home Depot but I've been looking for something really unique.  

I've been looking for something vintage like this French enameled house number found on Etsy...

...and they run about $20 to $30 each, but I haven't been able to find my house number and I wasn't sure I wanted to add blue to four paint colors I'll have right at the front door.

But on my search, I just happened to come across this company in Denmark called Ram Sign...

...where I found these enameled house number in black.  They're made custom in four days.

This was a splurge compared to the Baldwin or vintage French house numbers at $69 (shipping is free) but I'm still within the money I saved not getting the crystal doorknob.

And the thing I love the most about the onion lantern and the house number is... well they work together.  The clear glass with the black ring of black metal is almost the reverse of the black circle with a white ring around the edge of it.  I think they look great together.

*** House Preview ***

The weather cooperated a little bit this week and the house is just about all primed.  All of the raw wood, white primer and old brown trim have been reduced to just a few colors.  The problem is none of the colors seem to be the right colors.  I'm a little scared.

The primer on the front is very brown and the paint on the shingled side of the house is a blueish gray.  I took out my original sample cans of paint and none of them are the same.  The primer on the front is closest to what I chose, but the final paint color should be darker and grayer.  I have a call in to them to make sure there's no confusion.

Here's a closeup of the tongue-and-groove siding so you can get a better idea of what it looks like.  It was hard to see in the photos when it was unprimed cedar. 

And here it is up on the attic pediment all primed and ready for paint.    I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

Hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

At Last!

Even from the earliest stages of the exterior and front porch project, I've wanted to see the columns in place.  They're an icon that set the tone for the whole exterior.  My long-awaited vision was realized as I rounded the corner on my walk home from work last night.

The columns are installed!

Despite all the colors and different materials, it finally looks like the house I dreamed of when I first saw it.

I think it's been difficult for neighbors to understand where I was going too.  Several of them were out on the street watching as the last column went in. 

The house is suddenly getting a lot of attention.  Cars are stopping as they drive by.  Neighbors are standing outside looking....taking pictures...asking questions about how I chose the details.  I'm pleased that people are interested.

Even more unbelievable (and amusing) I just met a neighbor who lives four houses away across the street who after 31 years on the street says she "noticed" my house for the first time.  She never realized what beautiful windows I had.   I didn't let on.   Hahaha!!!

The painters are supposed to arrive on Monday.  This may be your last view until the final reveal.

Happy weekend.  Happy Thanksgiving to the Canadians!  Happy Columbus Day to the Americans.    Happy Spring to the Southern Hemisphere.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Although the sun was shining for the beginning of the "If This House Could Talk" tour, the clouds came back on Sunday and it's been raining ever since.  Sam spent the week up on a ladder in the rain watching how water ran off the old drip edge.  I hadn't intended doing too much with the gutters and/fascia underneath it, but after watching the water pouring behind the gutters and behind the fascia into the soffits in places, Sam took it upon himself to start pulling things off to correct the issues.

It's not a big job or a big added expense but dealing with the drip edge is tricky without messing with the roof.  The solution was a thin strip of wood (seen with white primer) tucked behind the drip edge.  The gutter will mount just under the white strip of wood and ensure that water goes into the gutter.

The old attic vent was also replaced...

...with this new one that Sam built in this shop.

The tree people arrived to trim the tree.

It cost $200 to have the city reserve two parking spots on the street in front of my house so the limbs wouldn't fall on cars.

This was the tree before...

...and this is the after.

I guess it's like a bad haircut.  It's a little upsetting when it happens.  But it grows back.  Hopefully.

I went in to work late after watching the tree trimming...

...and came home to a new door.   

The whole unit was built in Sam's shop and put into place in a few hours.  The door looks pretty plastic painted with gray primer but it's wood....I swear.  The sidelights are filled in temporarily with plywood.  Doesn't the mahogany deck look great when it's wet?

The remaining cedar plank siding can now be finished.  Hopefully the rain will stop and the painting can  start before it gets too cold.  It's getting very close to being too late.

Cross your fingers for a few warm, dry weeks.