The ‘Before’ Photos with Commentary
Looking at these photos, I fear I will never be willing to take on this kind of project again. One thing is for certain: Mike and I know how to do a project together. Generally it involves a quick consultation and then staying out of each other’s way.
I apologize for the quality of these photos. They are pictures of pictures we have mounted on a story board that my daughter prepared when we had an open house several years ago. People have lived in this neighborhood for many years and still remember the family who first owned this house. They were curious about what we’d done to bring it back to life, so we had a party and showed them.
Yuck. The front of the house faces north and it was already dark enough without the help of this overgrown mess. Pretty much all of this was ripped out. I moved the ferns, but everything else was composted. More about this area will be on the garden pages.
Will you get a load of that light fixture? I almost hated to remove it because it was such a conversation piece! And the L shaped counter had to go. This is a pass through kitchen that connects one side of the house with the other. Everyone has to walk through this area many times a day. That counter was simply in the way. We lost a big cabinet in removing it, but that’s how it goes.
Sometimes there is simply no accounting for taste, regardless of what era it is from. See that cutsie kitchen wallpaper? Fooled you! That’s not wallpaper! It’s contact paper. Yep. And it’s applied directly over beautiful 100% copper tiles. They must have really loved this contact paper because they also used it to soften the glow of the florescent light fixture overhead. They put it on the inside of the light cover. Wow. Ingenious.
We kept the cabinets as they are solid wood and I like the little wavy trim that matches the trim on the outside of the house and over the fireplaces. I thought they were going to be a real pain in the hind end to do, but in another stroke of pure genius, the previous home owner had painted directly over the the original varnish finish without any kind of prep work at all. When I applied the paint remover, the paint just kind of slid off in one large sheet. Thanks previous homeowner! I still had to remove the varnish, but it was so old it pretty much just sanded off easily.
You might be wondering why there are beds up against the wall. It’s because we all slept in this family room for weeks while we were cleaning up the other part of the house, making it habitable. This room was amazing, a word which here means ‘terrible’. What you are looking at is an addition that was simply tacked onto the outside of the house using plywood and double pane windows that didn’t open. The ceiling/roof of this part of the room was one piece of plywood with shingles on one side and sheet rock mud on the other side. When our contractor looked at this addition, he was literally speechless. There were no square corners anywhere, not to mention the fact that in the summer this room was about 100 degrees. It gave him great pleasure to rip this down and start over.
See the light fixture above the beds? Do you notice that it is an exterior light fixture? That’s because that part of the house used to be outside. There used to be a door there. It was covered up, but the step was still in place when they took the floor of the room out.
By this time the astute reader is probably asking what happened to our brains when we saw this house and bought it. But wait! There is more.
Opposite those greenhouse windows is this fireplace. I don’t know what it was about the era in which this house was built, but apparently they didn’t know how to do an attractive fireplace. The mantle is a hunk of cement. The hearth is a slab of cement. What’s with all the cement? Maybe it’s cheap? Whatever. It’s ugly and something had to be done. I worked my magic on this. You’ll see.
This is the master bathroom. That’s right. This is America, and this is what passed for the master bathroom. You know those bathrooms on boats? This one was smaller. When I saw it I thought, ‘Why bother?’. The shower, a cheap fiberglass number, was less than 36″ across. The head on our boat is has more space than this. Wait until you see this bathroom now. I’m almost giddy with excitement when I think about it.
Can you say mold? The master suite was a haven for spores of all kinds thanks to this completely sealed greenhouse the previous home owner built onto the back of the house. Again, windows that didn’t open. The only good thing about this structure was the wood used to build it: clear, solid Douglas Fir of a quality that will never be seen again on this planet. It was hard as rock. What did they grow in there? Besides mold, that is. Yes, the pink carpet was immediately removed.
When Mike took the siding off the bottom of that greenhouse, the termites that were nesting in it were mighty unhappy. Thankfully they limited their feast to the greenhouse and didn’t touch the house proper. Getting this thing off the house was much harder than we thought it would be, and it weighed about a gazillion pounds. We still have that wood, minus the parts eaten and filled with dry rot. It’s probably worth something. Maybe we can sell it on Craigslist.
In this photo you can see the cheap roof this house had. The people who sold this roof to the 92 year old woman who lived in the house really sold her a shoddy piece of work. Not only was it possibly the worst quality roofing available in history, but they roofed over the vents in the attic, causing problems with moisture. The house breathed an audible sigh of relief when this band aid was ripped off.
This is a photo of part of a storyboard Claire did for the open house. It shows the back areas. You might think that ivy looks pretty in the photo, but it’s a scourge that shouldn’t be allowed to live once it starts growing up vertical surfaces and sets seed. It’s extremely invasive in this state and had to go. Cutting back the ivy revealed an archaeologist’s feast of detritus that had been hidden since the 1960’s-1990’s and beyond. Broken pots, beer bottles, a couple of rusty lawn darts, old plastic seed labels from the days when this yard actually saw the sunshine, pieces of broken crockery. I’m sure all the junk would have told some kind of sordid story, but I didn’t keep it long enough to find out.
Legend has it that this building is actually older than the house. I believe it. We call this the love shack, although I cannot remember why. The shed walls were lined with black plastic and the whole place felt a little strange. After we’d lived here a few years we were visited by a man who grew up in the house. He told us that his step mother had suffered from cancer and that his father grew pot in the shack so she could get pain relief. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe he just grew pot and TOLD people she had cancer. Who knows? The only kind of pot that’s in there now is made of clay. We ripped the plastic out and put up something else to cover the studs and this became my workshop for awhile, until the rats took over. Then I moved out. We got rid of the rats, but I haven’t moved back in.
Now that you’ve seen the ‘before’ photos, I know you’ll be on the edge of your seats waiting to see how we salvaged this great American house. Twelve years later, it’s a shining star.