As our renovation project nears completion, we have painters and plasterers working in all but one first floor room. The two rooms (bathroom and upstairs bedroom) which are not getting painted are temporarily storing a large portion of the moved furniture and the safely tucked away art creating a sense of chaos throughout the house. Then, add to this disarray a semantical difference between our expectations and the language of the price quote/work order and this has become the most challenging part of a project that began in May. Through discussion and an upward movement of the price, all has been resolved and the windows, walls and the base board skirting the new red birch floor will look fresh.
The exterior work was completed yesterday. While we still have a white house, Forrest Green has replaced all of the three+ decades of Billybong Blue on the doors and windows, giving us a color combo very reminiscent of my Grandmother’s Vine Street house. The screened back porch (our favorite summer space) sports a white clean-up coat and with today’s gentle breeze and the wind chimes ringing, it has become our hideout from the plaster dust and paint fumes.
While Richard used the heat gun, applied citric solvent and scraped years of pigment (thankfully no lead) in preparation for the installation of nine new windows all part of our rennovation projects, I focused on our rain garden. A part of the yard, like mowing, that I had previously identified as Richard’s purview.
With his Parkinson’s Disease (PD) diagnosis last July 23, I made a conscientious decision not to immediately tackle “his” jobs. Rather, to allow him time to navigate what was still comfortably do-able and what was not before I took on a task (or we hired it done.) So last summer went by with very little attention given to our rain garden; that long expanse of ground which replaced the old tarmac driveway. It suffered from overgrown perennials, too few wood chips, and oh so many weeds.
Admittedly, we had never discussed a division of labor however, in my mind, there was a clear delineation. Each summer, while I focused on our square-foot vegetables and 20+ potted plants (the number always varies) I let Richard maintain the rain garden. Come to find out (amazing what a conversation reveals!) that he was unaware of this breakdown in gardening duties. What I had assumed was his preference was actually a simple default location determined by cool morning shade. Recently, following Richard’s wise example, I have started my morning gardening tasks in the shade and the rain garden now presents a bit of order sans so many weeds.
There are times when layers are fun – chocolate cake with ganache filling – and then again when layers prove tedious – decades of paint needing to be removed.
Having received a text alerting us that our new energy efficient replacement windows might arrive in late June rather than mid-August, Richard began the arduous, time consuming task of stripping the trim from around the five large double-hung windows in our sunroom (more aptly dubbed the cloud room as it faces north.) Neither of us can remember why these windows were not stripped with all the others during our 1980s renovations. It may be that we simply got tired and thus opted to skip that important step; applied our choice of color and left the layers of old-people beige, harvest gold and sickly green which eventually checked that newer coat of paint. After stripping so much trim work we should not be surprised when the removal of eight layers of paint reveals subtle wood details but we always are. Now to start fresh with Sherwin Williams Magic Night 1201.
Our house was built in 1925 and moved in ‘27. We are only the second family to live here. In the 1980s, as first time home owners, we undertook a myriad of refurbishing projects. Our after work evenings and nearly every weekend were filled with stripping layers and layers of paint from wood trim or removing layers and layers of nicotine infused wallpaper, so saturated that when dampened the room smelled like an old tavern. For a few years, we tolerated ugly orange shag carpet in the former front bedroom, now our TV room, and then put in hours of scraping the black foam backing that had been glued to the maple hardwood floor. (Who glues down carpet, anyway?!?) For years, the re-telling of that year’s remodeling tasks was the biggest story in our Christmas letter. And then the house was finally ours and we were content for two decades. In 2008, we added the screened porch that is our favorite summertime room, a new garage was built in 2012 and a rain garden replaced the old narrow driveway, and our favorite builder performed a major bathroom facelift just as I was retiring in 2017.
Now, after so many quarantine days, we have decided 2022 will be a year of home projects as we replace the last of the single pane, double hung windows, remove the carpet and lay new hardwood floor in the living room, and re-finish the dining room and kitchen parquet. Unlike the 1987 remodeling when a construction manager organized the sub-contractors, these projects feel sufficiently discrete that we will coordinate the work ourselves. Although, as I continue to wait for a call back from the asbestos abatement expert, (damn that 7 foot x 10 foot section of porch linoleum under the living room carpet!) I am beginning to wonder at the sanity of this decision. I hope these blog posts will help keep me sane.