Friday, May 1, 2009

This Old House: Family Room

I am now starting a series of blogs about our house. I saw our house for the first time approximately 13 years ago. The house was painted an awful color of dark blue gray that basically blended with the most dreary of Oregon skies. You could barely see the house from the street as the front "yard" was completely overgrown. No doubt, originally, the terraced front yard had been manicured. The plants that were now so overgrown had started out as well groomed exotic Rhododendron and Camellia varieties, as well as azaleas and cedars. Unfortunately, even if you could see the house well, you would not have wanted to... it was basically boarded up. The house had been built by my cousin's husband's parents. They had two sons in this house and grew old in this house. Unfortunately, as people often do, they stayed too long in this house and by the time they died, they could no longer take care of this house and the house suffered. The house then sat empty for a few years and by the time we moved in in November 1996, it was 3500 square feet of plywood covered windows, rotten walls and bug infested carpets. All those years of being boarded up tight had merely enhanced the rate of dry rot and mildew. There were no fully working bathrooms. As a matter of fact, one of the bathrooms didn't even have a toilet... just a hole in the floor with a towel stuck in it. The house did have some things going for it... an awesome view and a fantastic location. Plus, it was more than twice the size of our previous house. One of the first rooms to be complete was a quick cosmetic re-do of the family room. Coming in from the garage, which we do about 99.99% of the time, the first room you enter is the family room. I do not actually have any pictures of the original family room... but I will do my best at describing it so we can move forward... it was originally the garage of the house. In 1949 it was converted to a TV room. I'm sure, at the time, it was at the height of TV room fashion, however, more than 45 years later, it was a disaster. The floors were faux black marble vinyl tile... many places were cracked and broken. The walls were a horrible flesh color paneling. The front window was glass block partially covered up by a large custom built plywood cabinet also painted flesh color. There was some pink uplighting (presumably for ambience--because it was so impractical) but 80% of the light bulbs were burnt out. The east wall was a mauve, tan & gray wallpaper mural of downtown Portland. A few years before we purchased the house, the front of the family room (originally the garage) had to be jacked up and re-stabilized due to water damage. In that process, the marble fireplace surround had crumbled and when we moved in to the house, the fireplace was still in pieces on the floor. Since this room was basically not habitable, we spent a few thousand dollars (very few) getting it livable for a play room for Joey & Sammy who were preschool age at the time. The first remodel included taking down the paneling and replacing it with sheet rock. Likewise putting sheet rock over the old (flesh color) acoustic ceiling tiles. The vinyl floor tile was covered with carpet and the glass block was replaced by a window that opened. The marble fireplace surround was replaced by wood. All this lasted for a while. Until I got tired of the wall color, and the carpet color,and the fireplace surround was just too traditional... so after living in the house for about 8 years, we replaced the carpet and wall color and eventually the fireplace surround.

Approximately three months ago, this is what our much used family room looked like:

I decided to splurge and hire the fantastic interior designers that had worked on our office downtown. Enough with the temporary fixes and re-dos--this time is for keeps. The above green sofa used to reside in the GTT offices before we moved into our current fancy high rise. Chloe had spent a good deal of time using the corners as a nice handy scratching post and Sammy and his friends had done their share to give the sofa that "lived in" feel. It is very difficult to get rid of a sofa that is in desperate need of upholstering and I just couldn't rationalize disposing of the thing at the dump--it seems so wasteful, this is a VERY expensive sofa, so we decided to re-invent the big green monster sofa as part of the family room remodel.

Likewise, the old fireplace which had once been marble and then traditional wood and then temporary particle board was once again being reinvented and that meant taking it down to the original box. Of course we were too lazy to actually clean our junk out of the family room before construction began, so a lot the junk became garbage... at least it didn't include the green monster sofa.
The remodeling process also included taking down the three layers of ceiling: the original 1930's lathe and plaster, the 50's flesh color acoustic and the 90's poorly installed drywall. We gained an inch and half height in the room. We also eliminated one window and replaced the long window with a smaller one.
The new fireplace insert is a beautiful modern horizontal gas unit with a single center flame surrounded by pretty glass stones. A local steel artist built the outer decorative surround with matching shelf and desk (where a window used to be). 

The fireplace turned out beautifully and the walls are painted a light gray. We had to wait an extra week for the furniture to be delivered because there was a mishap with the carpet... our theme is contemporary masculine (since the room is mostly used by Sammy, and occasionally a much welcome Uncle or two over to watch a ballgame), we thought this a fitting theme. With Michael's tendencies leaning towards contemporary asian, and mine towards french country, we will just call our house: ECLECTIC.

We are so happy because all the furniture was delivered today (notice the old green monster sofa has been modernized and upholstered in luxurious dark taupe leather) and we have our family room back.
and it is BEAUTIFUL and we LOVE it!

Now, I just need to finish a couple of paintings for the walls and the window coverings are due to be installed in the next couple weeks and a couple more pillows are on their way... and in the meantime, we think it is AMAZING!
Thank you Holly & Jasmine!


holly said...

Thank you for allowing us to work with you on this - it was so much fun. Once those finishing touches are in - it'll be the coziest room in the house! Holly

kjlubitz said...

Sorry my pictures do not do it justice... I didn't even get a picture of the beautiful zig zag & branch tables or most of the accessories. I plan to take more pictures later when it is complete and post them to my Facebook. Thanks you guys. It is so lovely... everything except the Blazer poster Sammy has decided belongs above the fireplace :-(. I need to get that artwork up there... and fast!

Anonymous said...

What an improvement for our neighborhood! Looks like a gray, rainy day in Portland.

Doug Wachtel said...

Moooooooo! Can't wait to see and use it!