Tuesday, January 31, 2012

House and Home Giveaway

Need help with a room in your home?

My blog buddy Carol Beck, interior decorator and window treatment expert from House and Home Defined is having a giveaway of a design board custom made for your home.

We all have a room that needs a little help so head on over and sign up!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paperwhites and Gin Experiment

Nothing pleases me more than to hear from people who read my blog and feel inspired to comment.  I like getting e-mails with questions or people who want to share their experience in renovating an old house.  But I was more than excited to get an e-mail from a follower named Ruth who performed an experiment with paperwhites using gin to keep them from getting too leggy.  The left pot received just water; the pot on the right got an application of gin as described in the Yankee magazine article.  As you can see, the right pot is nice and compact while in full boom.

As impressed as I am with the paperwhite experiment, can we just talk about this vignette?  As eager as I was to see the result of Ruth's experiment, my attention was almost immediately drawn away to the composition of this grouping.  I love how the textures of paperwhites, the fossil and the animal print book (I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson) all work beautifully together.  The small frame and what I would guess is an antique compass complement the theme.  And how perfect is the grasscloth?

I want to thank Ruth for sending the photo and for agreeing to share it with everyone!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Vintique Object

Hey, go check out The Vintique Object blog today.  She's doing a post on our kitchens which we both redid with very little money.  If you don't know Camille already, you may want to poke around her blog a little.  She's very analytical about interior photos and has come up some great observations that will help you  improve the photos for your blog.  I enjoy it a lot.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Flowers in the House - Amaryllis La Paz

Amaryllis La Paz

This La Paz amaryllis is a stunner.   ¡Muy caliente!

Charo-does-the-Dance-of-the-Seven-Veils amaryllis.

Saucy, exotic and alluring.

Floral fireworks.

Amaryllis La Paz
Yesterday was our first measurable--and shovelable--snow.  So much different than last year.  But despite the mild winter we've had thus far, it's nice to have this reminder of spring that's still a few months away.

And how incredible that two stalks decided to put on their show at the same time!

I'm completely head over heels for this beauty and I'll be buying several of them next year.

The perfect flower for the first anniversary fiesta of Small but Charming's 
Flowers in the House party.  Stop in and say hi.

Have a great week!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Greek Revival Exterior Renovation - Before and After

For those of you visiting for the first time, or if you missed the actual exterior renovation as it progressed on the blog, I thought it would helpful to summarize it all in one post and include all of the sources for those of you who might want to take on this project.

Although this project was a restoration to the home's original state, you could get this look with almost any house that has it's gable end facing the street.  The Greek Revival is a great American style.

Here's my journey.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

Here's the house when I bought it.  

I never intended to document this process when I started
so I'm sorry it isn't the best photo.

Over the first few years, I did a lot of cleanup and removal of what I thought were the most unattractive and outdated details; specifically, I removed the chain link fence, the wrought iron posts on the front porch.  I did add new cedar fencing which I'll show in another Back Porch and Garden Post and I added a few shrubs along the front of the house.

 The house was sold as a "Greek Revival" but unless you were already aware of what a Greek Revival should look like, you would never know it.  All of the details had been removed or were covered up by the vinyl siding. 

My journey started with a trip to the Historical Commission to see if there was any information I could use to restore the house.  I was hoping to find that my house had a porch across the front, typical of most Greek Revivals in the area.

 I was thrilled to find a drawing of the outline of the house from the City's Field Engineers' book from 1856 showing my house with a 3.9-foot porch across the front.

Here's a cleaned up version of the drawing showing the house,
18.5 feet wide; the porch, 3.9 feet deep and the stairs positioned on the
right-hand side of the porch, 4.2 feet wide.

This was a VERY IMPORTANT find because current zoning laws
prohibit building with 10 feet of the property line.
I was going to have to apply for a variance showing
documentation that the porch was historically correct.

Since the application for a variance requires detailed plans, I had to hire an architect to do a plan for me.  After studying all of the local Greek Revivals and well as all the details appropriate to 1842 this is the drawing we presented.  After filing the lengthy applications, all of my neighbor's were informed of my intentions and invited to public hearing where they could support or object to my plan.

I talked to all of my neighbors in advance, asked for their support and arrived at the hearing with four letters of support.  My variance was approved and after the three-month application and hearing process, we were ready to begin construction.

We startedby  pulling off the vinyl siding that had been installed in mid-1980s. 

For anyone with vinyl siding, there's a possibility that you could simply remove it and paint your house!   I talked to a few of my neighbors who told me the former owner installed the vinyl siding because the house needed a paint job and adding vinyl siding made the house maintenance free for the elderly owner.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

Here the vinyl is almost removed.  Looks better already, right?

Just be cautioned, removing the vinyl siding leaves a lot of unknowns.  If water has been seeping behind the vinyl for years, you could find a lot of damage that needs to be addressed.  I was happy to find everything in relatively good condition and was able to keep the siding on two sides of the house that will receive later window changes.  Removing the vinyl siding also removes a layer of insulation so it won't be as energy efficient.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

As we peeled back the shingles, the original siding could be seen underneath.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

On the back corner, we found the original clapboards and the cornerboards.  We now knew exactly what size the new cornerboards should be.

But even without this find, there are other clues to these details.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

Once the front of the house was stripped to the original sheathing, we could also see outlines of the original details.  Let's take a closer look.

To the left you can see the vertical shadow of the cornerboard and just below the upstairs window you can see the angle of the porch roof line.  These are a great references in the absence of old drawings and photographs when restoring a house.

I was planning to blow insulation in before putting the house together but we ran into a little bit of a roadblock.  On the back side of the sheathing, lath and plaster had been applied from the inside.  This was done as an early form of insulation.

This can impede good distribution of insulation so all of the sheathing needed to be removed so this material could be taken out.

The cats kept a careful eye on the work.  This was both a scary and funny point in the project.  Having your house opened up to the elements for several days left me feeling very vulnerable.  At the same time, people would walk by and ask "Do you live in there?" to which I would look at them like they were crazy and ask "Yeah, why?"

This shows a closeup of the post and beam construction typical of homes built before 1845-1850.

This is the back corner of the dining room with the sheathing removed.

A closeup of the back side of the dining room wall.  Notice how there are virtually no studs.  A few horizontal studs provide support to wider vertical boards to which the lath and plaster are attached.

Once all the extra lath and plaster was taken out, the sheathing was all replaced and fiberglas insulation was blown in.  I don't know why fiberglas as opposed to cellulose, it's what my atchitect specified.  I did some research and found discussion boards with arguments as to the pros and cons of each. 

After blowing in the insulation, the house was wrapped with Typar Housewrap.

The house is ready to be put back together.

My water, sewer and gas service all come in the from the front of the house so before digging for the porch posts, I called DigSafe and each utility service came to mark where the pipes were located.  This is a free service.

Holes for the porch supports were dug four feet deep, the local requirement to get below the freeze line, the cement was poured and were covered to cure.

The new porch deck, the porch roof and the stair stringers were built.  A slab of granite was used as the first stair to keep the wood off the ground.

Close up of the porch beam, also called the entablature.

The entablature was wrapped with cedar so it looks like on solid beam. The porch deck is mahogany.

This is one point when I was happy to have an experienced and smart contractor.  The porch deck had to be slightly wider than the roof because you want the entire base of the column to sit on the porch but that the top, the beam sits back from the front of the column capital AND I think you have to take the taper of the column into consideration.  It's tricky.

The cornerboards were replaced.

To reduce costs, I opted to keep the shingled surface that we found under the vinyl siding on the driveway saide so those shingles were trimmed back to meet the new cornerboard.

The shingles were scraped to prepare for the new paint job.

I wanted to enlarge the living room windows so removed the old windows...

...enlarged the openings...

...and put in the new windows.

These are Marvin Ultimate double-hung windows that are wood inside, aluminum clad in black which I believe they call ebony.

I chose cedar siding.  I considered Hardiplank or Hardiboard but after seeing it up close, I just didn't think it was appropriate for a historical house.  It's slightly thinner than cedar siding and has an impressed wood texture that just didn't feel appropriate.  It was slightly cheaper but not significantly in the overall scheme of things.

Under the porch, I used tongue-and-groove cedar planks.  It would have originally been ship-lapped boards but we used tongue and groove for a tighter more weatherproof joint.

A new Simpson six-panel door replaced the old door.  This is also called a "cross and bible" style and is appropriate to the period of the house.  I could not find a sidelight that was the right size.  Simpson makes a sidelight but they're 12 inches wide.  I had about 8 inches.  Custom sidelights were quite expensive so my contractor Sam said he would make them.

For the skirt around the base of the porch, we repeated the size and pattern of the fence pickets.  I'm not sure that's correct but I think it ties the yard in to the house.

Once the columns went in, the house finally looked like I thought it should.

The columns are a composite material from Pacific Columns.  These are fluted Doric columns.

I used bead board on the porch ceiling.

You can see here what I was talking about earlier.  The base of the columns sit fully on the porch but up top, the beam (entablature) rests centered on the capital.

Most of the trim work that made up the pediment (the triangle that forms the attic area) was in good shape and was reused.  Just a few replacements were made.  All the old nail holes were filled in and sanded down.

Being able to keep some of that trim work saved quite a lot of money so I was able to order new windows for the upstairs and attic.  The house was primed with California oil-base primer in gray.  Each can was a slightly different color which was weird.

We started work in July and this is obviously Halloween time.

Anything that didn't show from the street was left for another phase.  I kept the old vinyl windows but all the old siding and trim that was under the vinyl was painted.  The difference is barely noticeable.

The back porches got new light fixtures.  These are Maxim, cast aluminum flush-mount ceiling fixtures from Arcadian Lighting.  Item # MX-1027-EB. 

This is driveway side where we kep the shingles and just painted everything to match.  The old chimney is painted Benjamin Moore Brick Red.  Isn't that a genius choice?

The remaining windows on the front and garden side of the house were then replaced, again the same Marvin windows, clad with ebony aluminum.

The final paint colors were:

House body:  Benjamin More "Graystone"
House trim:  Benjamin Moore "Silver Chain"

Here's a "before" of the entryway inside.

And the "after" with the new door and sidelights.  Dont' they really open up that space?

Front door: Benjamin Moore "Black"

Porch Ceiling: Benjamin Moore "Clear Skies"

Porch Deck: Cabot Australian Timber Oil "Mahogany Flame" stain

The door hardware with by Schlage, oiled Bronze, from Home Depot.

The house number is from Ram Sign in Denmark. They've subsequently hosted a lot of blog giveaways.  Their products are all custom made and take a few weeks but the quality is amazing.  I've gotten so many compliments on it.

The mailbox was from ebay.  Nothing fancy.  I didn't want to detract from the door and sidelights.

Since the sidelight were custom made, I chose a seeded glass to be installed.  It's an exagerrated distortion from period glass but I wanted something that would offer a little bit of privacy so I didn't need to install curtains.  I love the effect.   I can't remember the manufacturer but it's a German company and I got it at Burnham & LaRoche which is a local stained glass shop in Medford.

I think it works nicely with the light fixture I chose for the front porch.  This is onion light made by Troy Lighting and is called their Portsmouth Traditional Outdoor Pendant and it's also from Arcadian Lighting

Finally I added the railings at the front steps.  It took a while for me to figure out how they should look and how they should tie in.  I thought I wanted wrought iron but that can go wrong very quickly. 
The rail pattern again echos the pattern of the fence and porch skirt.  The rails tie in to the columns at what is a pretty difficult joint that's not only angled but that hugs the curve and flutes of the columns. But I really wanted those to line up so it was worth the trouble.

Exterior Before and After
There's still lot to do but this exterior transformation is one I'm really proud of.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment.  I'll answer in the comments so everyone can see the answers.