Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Old House: Living Room

We moved into our house the week after Thanksgiving 1996. Next month we will celebrate 13 years of working on this monster fixer upper. Honestly, even if you have a new house (which we have had), there is still always something to fix or clean or caulk or grout... or even replace. With this old house, however, the fixes are always bigger, and more expensive. When we purchased the house, it took every penny we had just to close the deal. The basement actually had to be tackled before we even moved in and that was rolled into the purchase price. We ordered two inspections and although we knew the furnace would need to be replaced asap (the ducts were lined with asbestos), we also knew that the deck off the second floor living room was partially rotten and far from code (with a 'take your breath away' scary metal railing a mere 30" high). So, the plan was... first the furnace, then the deck. We were heading into winter anyway, so the deck could wait.

Oh, and did I mention, the night before we signed the papers, 'The Money Pit' was on TV--and we watched it! Although that is a hilarious movie, it did make me kind of nervous... what an odd coincidence. I told Michael that if a raccoon jumped out of the laundry chute, we would sell--I promised! Well, so far no raccoon has jumped out of anywhere (except the backyard), but upon entering the house for the first time, the living room was completely FLOODED. It took me a bit to figure out that the water was not coming from any of the doors or windows or the ceiling (the living room is on the middle floor), but in fact the water was coming out of the fireplace. As it turns out, the brick on all the chimneys was in desperate need of 'tuck pointing'. Yeah, I had no idea what tuck pointing was either. Tuckpointing is the process of filling in missing, cracked or deteriorated mortar joints and apparently all three of our chimneys (the house frustratingly came with four fireplaces) had to have it--and quick. The water was coming in through these cracks and in large enough quantities to flood a room with at least a couple inches of water. Ugh!!! There went the money we had put away for the furnace. Well, that was just the beginning of the drama for the living room. Actually that very first day, after cleaning up the "flood" I removed the peach draperies from all the windows. Man were my sinuses working over time. I'm not sure how many decades those drapes had hung in the living room, but my guess is they had never been cleaned. After the drapes, the five layers of wallpaper had to go and the cracked mirror over the fireplace and the cracked 'art deco' fireplace surround and the saga continued... for years....

The picture below is quite embarrassing. You see, this house was so much bigger than our previous house, that we had no problem living in just a few rooms and still feeling like we had extra space. So whole rooms ended up being used for storage. In this picture, we are storing our new kitchen cabinets (along with a lot of junk). The kitchen cabinets actually resided in the living room for approximately 18 months before we had the money to have them installed in the kitchen. Really, remodeling the kitchen ended up costing me about half of what it would have cost to have a designer and contractor come in and do it all at once, but it took twice as long. Not sure the trade off is worth it in the long run. Thank goodness I was still in love with the cabinets when they were finally installed. The range sat on a pallet in the garage for 6 months... what was I thinking??? Ah, but this is not a post about the kitchen....

In the end, we did get all the wallpaper off the walls, we replaced all the windows and doors (even removed a window), replaced the mirror over the fireplace, got some new fancy window shades and removed the art deco fireplace surround. To this day we still have not replaced the fireplace. We merely stuck some extra kitchen cabinetry molding pieces on it for a mantel and called it 'loft style'... I am currently trying to decide what to do with it. Again, we lovingly call our house eclectic. My talented designer friend Ruth has diligently tried to help us marry our styles, but the living room has mostly an Asian feel with just a touch of traditional/french country thrown in.
These three beautiful pictures were all taken by another talented friend, Elliot.

Oil Painting by Joey (many years ago), Manzanita at Night

And now, 13 years later, the living room is mainly used as an art studio by both me and Joey.

Above: work in progress, Winter Figs by Kari

Below: work in progress by Joey
Although I think all four of us would agree that our house is really still too large for our needs (especially when it comes time to clean it), we are very happy to have such a functional living room/art studio.


Blackberry Bratt said...

So amazing!! I love it!

Betsy said...

After all that you have been through with that house, do you feel it has been worth it?

I, for one, would say "Yes!" I think it is an amazingly beautiful house, but I haven't had to go through any of the "drama".

kjlubitz said...

Funny thing Betsy is that I have not even touched on the worst areas of the house yet. Remember I am only 2 rooms in to a 12 room house... but I would say, yes, it has been worth it. I do love this house, but Michael may respond differently. We lived in mass mayhem for many years. Apparently I am more suited to living in squalor than Michael. Wait until I get to the bathrooms, ha! Crazy old house!