Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter

Amaryllis Picotee
Although we think of amaryllis as a Christmas flower, we're celebrating
Easter with one last flourish from Amaryllis Picotee.

Amaryllis Picotee

Picotee's lovely white flower has a green center and fine red penciled edge.
I love how the red defines its very sculptural edges.

We'll be enjoying a quiet Easter hanging out with a few good friends, enjoying
good food, and sitting on the chairs we're not normally allowed to.

Whatever you do, however you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful day!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

There's a new color scheme being served up all over the neighborhood. 
I call it Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese.

When I was at lunch at Sam's in South Boston recently and saw it on the menu,
I just couldn't resist ordering it so I could juxtapose the photos.

This is a two-family house I wanted to buy several years ago.  It was about as crusty as
a grilled cheese sandwich back then and I decided it was too scary of the project.
Someone bought it, fixed it up and flipped half of the house for the same price
as they paid for the entire house.

It was then I learned, don't be afraid of crustiness.


This house was the first in the neighborhood to use TS&GC color scheme
about three years ago.   The others all quickly jumped on board.


This one switched things up a little bit with bronze window sashes.

photo:  me

I think I like it better with black accents.

What do you think?  Could you warm up to TS&GC on your house?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Appraisers and Roofers

It was 7:30 in the morning.  The house was all spic and span and
the morning sun poured in the front of the house.

The yellow paperwhites brought their own sunshine to
the dining room we all waited for the appraisers to arrive.

There had even been a dusting of snow overnight that
perfectly covered my missing shingles.

Everything was perfect....

...until I looked out the window to see...

...the roofers had arrived unannounced.

I nearly had a heart attack.  All I could envision was the
appraisers arriving to find my roof...

...looking like this.

Fortunately, they were just stopping by to accept delivery of the
roofing materials.  It would have been nice to have gotten this done
before the appraisal but at least they could see that it was actually going
to happen in the near future.

The roof was replaced the next day.

So here's the before.

And here's the after.  It's not a huge impact but it does look a lot better.
They also added a ridge vent which will provide better ventilation in the attic.

(The shingles are Certainteed architectural shingles in Colonial Gray color.)

The appraisal went well I think.  It's hard to judge and a lot of the outcome will
be the comparison of my house and its finishes to comparable properties
in the neighborhood based on recent sales.

They did say that it was apparent that everything was well maintained
and that a lot of the finish work looked new.  That subjective data gets
offset by the fact  that I don't have a garbage disposal, a dishwasher and
a microwave, butcher block counters versus granite, etc. etc. etc.

A porch adds X dollars to the price, a patio adds X dollars
and off-street parking adds X dollars.  Good information.

They did drawings of the floor plans and took photos of only of
the kitchen and bathrooms, hot water heater and furnace. 
Not too invasive and it took less than a half hour.

I don't have any concern about where the appraisal will come in but I'm more interested in
how the work I've done to the house has affected the value.  I think it's important when you're
renovating to know the value of your house as well as understanding your local real estate
market.  I don't want to overshoot on installing high end finishes if I won't be able to recoup
that investment if I decide to sell the house at some point.

Is there another renovation in my future? I don't know.  But it's good to be educated.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Keeping Track

When you're renovating and/or decorating a house, you come across a lot
of details.  Pinterest has proven to be an invaluable tool to  keep track of ideas
and products that I may want to go back and look at later.  I wanted to share my secret for
keeping track of information when I'm out and about on the road searching for
furniture, salvage and details I may want to look at down the road.
My secret is a Moleskine.  They come in a lot of different forms but
I like the plain notebook.  It's 5 x 8.25 inches which is about a half sheet of regular
copy/printer printer paper so it's not really pocket size but small enough that
I can carry  the notebook and a point-and-shoot camera in the same hand.
(Although maybe that's why I keep dropping my cameras!)  They're available
at most art supply stores and also on the internet.

It's also got a handy pocket in back to stuff business cards and receipts.
I'm famous for losing receipts and this has helped a lot.
As I was out, for example, looking for vanity options,
I started a new page and noted where I was.
Adding the date wouldn't have been a bad idea either.
Even though I usually document things I like with my camera,
the notebook is a perfect place to make a little sketch so you can note the
measurements.  Here you'll see my drawing of the Swedish chest in the lead
photo and its measurements.  It's not a perfect drawing but there are enough
details--the scrolly edge on the middle drawer and the bun feet--that refresh
my recollection. It provides details that a photograph doesn't.
I knew at the time this wasn't an option for my downstairs bathroom
but having all the details allows me to go back later to see if it might be
an option, for example, for the upstairs bathroom or maybe a kitchen island.

Another thing that's really helpful is having the dimensions of all
your rooms.  I can't tell you how many times I've been out somewhere and
see a table or chest and really can't tell if it's the right size for a certain spot
in the house.  If you have all these measurements, you'll immediately know
if the antique sofa will fit through the den door or if the salvaged doors
are the right size for bathrooms.  I try to measure as much as possible; e.g., the
height and width of windows and doors, the height and width of walls as well
as each space between doors and windows, and the placement of light switches
and outlets.
Of course, the secret is making sure you have your notebook when you need it.
It's never a problem remembering if I'm making a road trip to Maine or Cape Cod,
but sometimes I find myself stopping somewhere when I'm closer to home.
It doesn't always work out but I find the best place to  keep it is in the car!

* * * * *
For you art lovers, I thought it might be fun for you to read a few pages of
my notes from my meeting with Jeanne Bultman which I talked about in
my post Why I Love Provincetown.  I sat down immediately following our
meeting and wrote down as much as I could remember.  It's amazing how
certains details can fade after time and I knew these were details that I wanted
to get down for posterity.  I've masked a small portion of my
notes just to protect the family's privacy.  I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Plans are moving along nicely.  My refinancing has been approved and
I expect to have my appraisal this week.  

I've also started plans for the new downstairs bathroom.  I've always thought my biggest challange for both bathrooms would be to find a unique and interesting solution for the sink.  I've always envisioned something old paired with something modern.

I stopped by Darby Road in Waltham to see what I could find.
The gray Swedish chest would be beautiful.  

I'd pair it with a modern rectangular vessel mounted on the top.   I'm not a huge fan of the bowl vessel sinks; they just seem a little precious.  This nice chunky one that would allow you to wash your face without losing half the water onto the counter.

This is one of Darby Road's custom pieces.  I like the idea of cabinet doors better than a piece that has drawers.  You could get a shelf or two inside without having to deal with shortening the  drawers.

It's got some nice details and can be painted in any color so it 
could fit in to almost any design scheme.

I love the corner detail on this chest.   Really different hardware too.

This is another Darby Road piece that could be transformed
into a handsome country vanity...

...that you've maybe seen on my Bathrooms Pinterest board.

This isn't at all an option but isn't this amazing?  The sink and
counter sections are all porcelain.  Perfect for your country house!

Not for my house, but I love this Chinese chest.  It's got a beautiful patina.
And I think it would be gorgeous with a copper basin on the top.

A table is another option.  I love the turned legs on this Swedish piece.

It could look like this only with one large sink.  Yes, it lack storage but I love
how little visual space it takes up.  

 It's unfortunate that every one of these pieces is too big.  The architect's plan shows a 30-inch sink.  I think I could push that to 32 inches for the sink but all of these are 36" or larger.

This table could be fairly easily modified.  If the top were removed, the front and back rails
could be trimmed down.  I used my photo editor to add a shelf to the bottom.  

Kind of like this.   It's no much better than
having a basket of towels sitting on the floor.

I like the marble top too.

So I think this is the one.  I've drawn up plans to alter the piece 
so it fits and I'm heading to the bath store to figure out the sink and other fixtures.

See you there.

Note:  I regret that I had to put the word verification back on.  I was getting overwhelmed with all the spam comments.  It was either add add word verification or turn off anonymous comments.
I know it's a pain; I'm sorry.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Antique Maps

I recently came across a collection of antique maps and couldn't resist 
bringing some of them home.

There was quite a large collection that included locations all over the United States 
but I pulled out as many Massachusetts towns as I could find, especially cities
and villages along the ocean.

I would assume each map was a page in a large book but each one
has been cut into perfect rectangles and mounted on cotton so they can
fold into a little booklet.  Many of them are signed "F.H. Silsbee, Lawrence, Mass."
and a few are dated 1899.  I googled F.H. Silsbee and found he was a graduate
of MIT and a member of the New England Cotton Manufacturer's Association

You can see faintly on the back of the Falmouth, Mass. map the text on the back
that reads "Desription of Topographic Map of the United States."

Let me show you a few.

Beverly and Salem, Mass.

Plymouth, Mass.

Yarmouth, Mass.

And I love that some of the maps
of seaside towns are mainly open water leaving an irregular edge
that make abstract shapes.

Provincetown, Mass.

Truro and Wellfleet, Mass.

The maps have a very soft red, white, blue and black color palette
that would fit very easily in almost room.

Fall River, Mass.
(Of Lizzie Bordon fame.)

Since each map has a grid of nine panes, I think they would look great framed 
and hung in a grid of nine.

A project that would certainly drive me crazy
getting hung perfectly.


For present and former Salem residents, historians, witches and warlocks, I'm adding an enlarged image of the Salem map.  It's too bad there's not more detail but I'm sure some of you (Donna Seger) will see some things that have changed.

(It seems it won't enlarge when you click so I'm making it as large as possible.)