Saturday, 19 February 2011

The staircase at Mister W's house will soon be in ours!

It is still unclear what happened to dear Mister W, our crotchety old neighbour from across the street. We are not sure whether he passed away or if he has moved to an old age home. We like to think that it is the latter. But either way, we miss him. His house has been sold to a very well mannered, flashy young man who drives an Audi Q7. Seemingly the vehicle of choice for the newer residents of the Small Street.

We still aren't sure whether the young man's intentions towards Mister W's house are honourable or not. Meaning, we suspect that he is a flipper. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It's just that we are used to folks who really love their houses. According to my mum, his direct neighbour and one of the Small Street's legion of Mata Haris, he plans on completely stripping the house and turning it into a modern city dwelling. Which after seeing the estate agent photos of Mister W's historically bereft, multi-vinyl floored house, actually makes a lot of sense.

The one original feature left in the house is the staircase. And guess what? Its OURS! We are still pinching ourselves. The FYM (flashy young man), having no use for such antiquities, has actually given it to us. We had originally planned to have our spindles and banister copied once we opened up the wall on the middle floor. But this is even better! Okay the spindles are not the same design as ours, but these elements are a part of the Small Street's history. And every time we pass the middle floor landing that little quirk will be a reminder of our dear departed neighbour. It will be Mister W's legacy.

A staircase is a strange thing to inherit but we couldn't be happier. Yes, we will have to modify it a bit as the banister currently runs at an angle and for our purpose it will need to be horizontal. The spindles will probably have to be cut and there will be of course (oh joy!) more paint stripping. But in the end it will all be worth it. A piece of Mister W will live on in the Tall House.

Our top floor landing.
This is the banister and spindles that we were going to have copied.

What the middle floor landing looks like now.

We can't wait to knock down that wall!

Hopefully, it will look something like this when we are done.

Photo Canadian House and Home

Friday, 4 February 2011

The kitchen (minus the switch plates)

Ze back splash

The closet doors minus the hardware and the mirrors in the openings

When the subject of renovations comes up, we are invariably asked "Have you finished yet?". No phrase in the english language seems more foreign to me than those four words. Yes, we are living in the whole house, and yes we have made great strides since we bought the place over three years ago. We have beautiful top and main floors. We are so far thrilled with the results. But we are far from finished yet.

Forget that there is a list as tall as the house of things that need to be done (not to mention two whole floors, the façade and the backyard). We honestly don't want to be finished. The process is too enjoyable.

The house is more than just our home. It is our hobby. Heck, it is even our passion. Call us kooky, but we are in love with a pile of bricks.

So naturally compromise isn't an option. This is why we still have not yet settled on tiles for the front vestibule. Having had our heart set on those ogee shaped marble tiles, we are having a hard time changing gears. So until we find a worthy replacement, a lovely murky grey industrial carpet is there to greet us.

But we have been moving forward. The marble subway tiled backsplash is now in place. The ceramist charged a paltry $64 (and a bottle of olive oil) for 4 hours work. Making it more than worth the wait. The coat closet doors have also been installed and painted. And if I do say so myself, they look smashing. We have sourced out a glass merchant for the mirrors in the door openings as well as a company that will restore the old hardware.

And of course we've already started thinking about the next projects. The three most likely candidates are properly insulating the basement. Prepping, priming and painting the stair risers and trim. And most thrilling of all, taking down the wall by the stairs on the middle floor and installing new spindles and a banister. So stay tuned.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Luckily, we made very few mistakes in the whole ground floor reno process. One of the few was putting some of the halogen pot lights too close to the kitchen cabinets. Hardly a mistake really, more like a fudge, a little boo boo. But still it required some patch work as well as the services of our favourite Hungarian curmudgeon, László, to make it right.

True to form, László entered the Tall House

without even so much as a hello:

Cutting right to the chase he barked: -Who did this work?

Me: -What work?

Him (getting a little red in the face): -This!!!

Me (heart pounding): -Oh, You mean the mouldings?

Him (voice rising as if speaking to a deaf half-wit): -Yessssss!

Me (not knowing whether this is good or bad): -Uh, Manu and his brother did a day together and Manu has been doing it alone ever since.

Him (shaking his head as he walked around the room): -Whhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaatttttttttt? … … But this fantastik job!

Me (breathing again): - ...

Him: - ...

Him again: -What your husband do again?

Me: -Um, he works in advertising

Him: -And the brother?

Me: -He's an engineer.

Him (full on yelling): -IM-POS-SI-BLE!!!!!! Usually these guys don't know what they are doing.

Him again (more quietly): -This really incredible job. Most workers don't do as nice work. He's hired! … Now you go.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Mr W, our ancient, crotchety old neighbour with the heart of gold has moved out and put his house up for sale. We saw the pictures online. Save for the staircase, there are no original features, just an empty shell. There is nothing to show for a lifetime of living in that house but a bunch of linoleum flooring and some bare walls. Growing old sucks.

The house is being touted as a "piece of history", as indubitably was Mr W. We hope that someone falls in-love with it and brings it back to life.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

All the trim still needs painting

The range hood needs to be installed.
The smoke alarm goes off every time we open the oven...

...we're missing the backsplash too

One day we'll hang the real plates, these are just photocopies...

The future coat closet. The antique doors need to be hung and painted.

We've been living in the new space for a couple of months now. No matter that there is still a list as tall as the house of things to do, we are home. And we are loving it.

There is nothing like a year of living in a construction site to make one appreciate the finer things in life. Cleanliness! Order! Organization! It is amazing how comparatively simpler our life seems. Possessions are now nicely stowed in their allotted space instead of piled higgledy-piggledy in a corner. We're back to having people over for dinner. We don't feel the need to get out of the house on weekends. We linger.

Everything just seems so damn easy. We've even discovered that mundane tasks such as doing the dishes are actually soothing and enjoyable in a beautiful space. Its even taken that edge off the weekly morning routine. Getting out of bed at 6:30? A snap! Because even on the grayish of days, the new kitchen is filled with light.

Oh we still have projects, but now the work is just aesthetic. We've put the grunting and heavy lifting behind us. And maybe that's why we are so happy, we are now just working on the pretty.

Even our gifts to each other have changed. We have moved on from power tools to more soul nourishing offerings such as the much longed for Magnolia tree in the back yard.

And just this past weekend, for the first time in years we actually had a whole two hours of doing nothing! Manu watched some football and I read while the Princess napped and our Little Superhero saved the world.

Life is good, but we can't quit now. We have to pull up our bootstraps and give that last push. Manu has already planned to take a couple of days off this week to prepare the house for winter and I'll be back in the saddle on the weekend painting the trim. Then the back splash needs to be laid, the range hood installed, the closet doors hung and painted, the vestibule tiles found, the front window trim applied...

Holy sh**t! We'd better get to work!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Behold the great pirate ship

Argh! And she shall be christened the Stejoine

The Jolly Roger flying aloft

The summer of 2010 will forever go down in Tall House history as the summer of the great pirate ship, The Stejoine.

One fine august day while I was busy unpacking and organizing the first floor, Manu came up with the most inspired idea to keep the little folk (which included my three and a half year old nephew who was visiting from Miami) out from underfoot. The children would build a pirate ship! It would only be an improvement on the actual landscaping and there was more than enough scrap lumber left over from the 1st floor reno.

The four of them worked away at it for the better part of the day. First the hull, then the masts and finally the sail. There was even a hand drawn Jolly Roger flying proudly aloft. The children baptized the ship Stejoine in honour of themselves, the mighty pirates who'd built it: Captain Stelio, First Mate Joseph and Secon Mate Inès. Much like real pirates, they got absolutely filthy, dirt on top of mud on top of black paint - there was nary a square inch of them that remained untouched. They would build, then they would play and when it all got too much, they ate grapes and water melon slices to combat scurvy.

But the fun didn't stop there. For over the next several weeks our little Superhero, all of five, busied himself making all manner of improvements to the lovely vessel. Benches and tables were added and removed, there was a cafeteria (!) in the works, storm proofing was attempted… Folks started stopping by just to see the ship. It was fast becoming more famous than the Black Pearl on the Small Street.

But best of all, it meant, for the first time since we bought the house, that the kids didn't have to go to the park to enjoy the great outdoors, they could just hang out in their own back yard. And it didn't matter if it wasn't pretty or cared for (yet!) it was still, simply, magical.

As you may have guessed we have a lot to do inside before we even think of tackling the outside. Which is a good thing because the darn place is overrun with pirates!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Our layout of what could have been

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, being heartbroken over a floor is pretty silly. So lets just say that we are bitterly disappointed.

We had found the perfect tiles for the entrance way. Manu had first spotted them while lunching at a sandwich shop in the old part of town, and had told me about them that night at dinner. He was in love. Then as luck would have it, we stumbled upon them at the very store where we bought our kitchen sink and counter top. If possible I loved them even more than Manu. Black and white honed marble tiles shaped like little lanterns. And the best part, they didn't look all shiny and new, they looked like they had been around for years and years. They were perfect for the Tall House. We were smitten.

And as we are want to do, we obsessed over them. Designing and redesigning the entrance way pattern until we were satisfied.

Then our luck ran out. Having a rather long list of things to do before we tackled the vestibule floor, we decided to wait before buying the tiles. Well, good things don't necessarily come to those who wait: they are not only sold out but discontinued!

I tried having them brought in from other cities. I have even tried having them made. No dice.


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