Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Craigslist Addict

Some of you may know that I am not just into antique houses but antique everything. I am always looking for antiques, and right now I am especially looking for furniture for the family room. I have come up with a floor plan and I browse Craigslist on a regular basis looking for great pieces at great prices. I was really successful last Friday, finding a pair of chairs from the early 1900s. I got them from a lady in Baltimore who worked in a lawyers office. She said they were custom made and were a family heirloom. They are simply gorgeous and in great condition. The fabric doesn't match our color scheme which in unfortunate because the upholstery is in excellent shape. Eventually we will have them reupholstered, once the family room is done. Now I just need to find a cool antique game table to put between them!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fall cleanup

Hi folks!

Sorry its been so long since I last blogged, but we've been busy with fall activities. We had an amazing turnout for Halloween. The weather wasn't great, but we still managed to scare a lot of kids! We had out the tombstones and fog machines as usual but this year we added a wizard's table. On the table was a trick crystal ball with my head in it! I don't know if anyone got a picture of me in the crystal ball because my breath kept fogging it up. If someone sends me a picture, I will post it later.

We haven't gotten much restoration work done lately. We have been focused on cleanup. We cleaned off the back porch of all the construction debris we had been unintentionally collecting and called Herbie, the trash guy. I didn't take any pictures out of sheer embarrassment! I hadn't realized how bad it was getting until I saw the pile in the driveway. It was huge.

We also cleaned out the ballroom so we could store more lumber there. Its much more organized, but still filled with construction stuff. We bought a toilet, sinks and all for the half bath years ago, and they are still in boxes waiting for the floors to be redone.
We spent this weekend doing lawn cleanup. We have a multitude of trees, mostly deciduous, that make raking a month long job. Luckily, the city takes the leaves, but we have to get them to the curb. In order to do this we rake the leaves on to tarps and drag them to the street. The pile in the picture is about half of the front yard. Looks like we will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday raking!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great Awesome Stupendous Wonderful News!

Brown-Shugart House (Walnut Manor) circa 1960

After almost 4 years of owning the house, we are finally in a National Historic District! The South Charles Town Historic District has been in the making for 10+ years, and being a governmental process, it has been slow. The district was surveyed by a historian many years ago and the nomination was never completed, so recently it was re-surveyed and the appropriate forms filled out and presented. We just got word yesterday that the district was approved.

So what does this mean? Mostly, it means that our neighborhood is being nationally recognized for its history and architecture. To us, the most exciting part is that we are eligible for state preservation grants and tax credits.

We are all a twitter here. We have read all the information about filling out the grant application, but now we need to actually do it. Its a very technical process with estimates, plans and documentation but we are excited to begin. So starts the search for contractors, the taking of pictures of the condition of the house (anyone want to crawl up to take pictures of the roof?) and then finding matching funds because they are 50/50 grants and our restoration funds are depleted.

Funding can be difficult to find. I personally think that everyone named Charity should automatically get 501 (c) (3) status!!! There are very few grant programs out there for individuals, so luckily the federal government funds state preservation grants for homeowners. The grants are competitive and need-based (how in danger is the property due to the needed repairs) and they usually only cover the exterior features. We definitely have things on our to do list that qualify like roofs, gutters, painting and window restoration, so we have a decent shot, but times are tough and there are so many historic properties worth saving.

If the grant doesn't come through, we will then apply for state tax credits. They are easier to get and cover more repairs but still involve a somewhat lengthy application process. If you receive either a grant or tax credits you are required to follow the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Rehabilitation and the State puts an easement on the property, protecting the structure from having any work done that might hurt its historic integrity.

I would personally jump through any hoops that West Virginia demands to get some state assistance. I think that I would even jump through those hoops naked wearing a tutu and balancing a ball on my nose! I already feel like a circus clown after years of juggling this restoration, so a little more freak show won't scare me.

Anyone out there applied for grants before? Advice or comments?

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Monday, September 14, 2009

My Lighting Dilemma

Okay, I love the green revolution that we are having. I have the reusable bags. I recycle diligently. I save and reuse the plastic forks I get at fast food joints. I even have a granny grocery getter tricycle. I love the earth and believe in sustainability, but from a lighting perspective I hate being green. Don't get me wrong, I use the compact florescents, but I hate them. They look awful in my antique and reproduction Victorian chandeliers.

There will soon be a time when I will no longer be able to buy the lovely clear glass incandescent light bulbs. It makes me crazy because I am all about aesthetics. I have threatened many a time, that I am going to stock pile my attic full of these pretty bulbs so that I don't have to diminish the loveliness of my fixtures.

So now I am looking for antique and reproduction lighting for the family room project. I have been agonizing over what to buy. Between the family room and the adjacent hallways, I need at least 2 chandeliers, 2 sconces and a pendant. I think that I am going to purchase reproduction fixtures in nickel (a girl has gotta have some bling). I would like to find antique shades, but so many of the ones I like would look awful with spirally florescent bulbs.

So I keep trolling eBay for elegant shades and fixtures. Mostly window shopping but not buying. I guess you could say I have cold feet. These pics show some of the things I've liked. I love love the beautiful etched clear to yellow shade. I sold for like $400 which I couldn't afford anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter how it would look with a modern bulb.

There are antique shades that would work with these new fangled bulbs, I just don't like them as much. They are less transparent, so they provide a little less twinkle. I pondered on this cutie, but decided it was slightly too green a yellow.

I like this fixture a whole lot, but I would have to have it nickel plated to keep it in my color scheme. I like the egg and dart theme. There is a little of that in the house, mainly on the front door, and I have repeated the theme in the new mantel. This would look great in the hallway.

Any thoughts on fixtures, shades and bulbs? Anyone else out there crazy like me?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Coming Out of the Closet

We finished the carpentry for the coat closet today. Not much R and R here for Labor Day. It was a long day, but Annie and Jake had done good work yesterday, setting us up for success.

The closet walls are beadboard plywood, the drop ceiling (Jake's idea) is made of leftover door/window trim (reduce, reuse, recycle). The shelf is made from a stair runner and the corners are quarter round.
Also, per Jake's suggestion, we replaced the old light fixture (a real old bakelight cutie, but not as functional and safe as a modern fixture) with a florescent. Once painted, the closet will be very clean and functional.

Anyone out there good at organizing and cleanup? We seem to have troubles in this department! We had to do some organization of one of our workrooms today. We couldn't find the materials we needed so in a huff, we organized and regrouped, eventually finding enough like materials to do the drop ceiling. Still a lot more to clean up in this room is needed, but its a start. Now its time to call Herby, the trash guy, to pick up the pile I made in the driveway.
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

This and That

Restoring an old house is in the details. When you start a construction project from scratch, you start new, with large piles of lumber, drywall and other supplies. It seems to move quickly. When you restore, you have to undo to redo. In the case of a true restoration, you try your best to preserve as much of the old as possible, so you must rewire, strip, sand, glue, and fix before you can build, spackle, paint, wallpaper etc.

This weekend has been all about making progress on many projects at once. We are not very organized, so we are working on the old and the new simultaneously with new old things popping up on the to-do list everyday. Confused? Don’t worry, so are we.

This weekend we are painting the speaker covers, restoring a window, striping woodwork, and reworking a closet interior among other small projects and general maintenance. Nothing completed, but a lot in middle of the process and with many hands to help. Our friend Ryan came out on Saturday to help and ended up mowing the lawn leaving us more time to work on restoring. Emily, a neighbor’s painter’s daughter (say that three times fast) came over to help weed and sweep the front brick walkway. Today my dad helped to prep the speaker covers for paint and then helped to strip and sand some woodwork. Later in the day, Jake and Annie joined the party, lining a closet with bead board plywood. I have spent the better part of the weekend restoring one of our windows, which is one of the most time consuming jobs we have here (a subject that deserves a post of its own). Kevin has been to Home Depot repeatedly and has been painting .

So much to do, so little time, but it’s a three day weekend, so hopefully we’ll have another productive day tomorrow. Thanks to all our wonderful helpers!
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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Family Room Project

After years of restoration and living in our bedroom we are at the breaking point. We need someplace to live like normal people. Sitting on a couch to watch tv and eating at a table have become a foreign luxury. So, we have put all other projects on hold and are concentrating on finishing our family room. The goal is to have the project completed before Thanksgiving, which is just a little bit after our 4 year house anniversary. Don't know if we'll make it, but once its done I want to have a party to watch "the Money Pit" (which no longer seems like a comedy).

A few months ago my student Stephen made and installed a new mantle to house and hide our new tv. We loved the mantle but felt that we needed to bump out the chimney wall above it to balance the overall look. This weekend we built out that wall and added a center speaker. Vents will be placed on the sides of the chimney wall to let the heat from the tv escape.

We also built covers to hide the ceiling speakers. We started with reproduction register grates from http://www.justhomedecor.com/ and then framed them. I painted the grates white and the ceiling and speakers behind black to further the illusion.

In designing the room my goal is to have all the modern conveniences and comforts but keep them aesthetically compatible with Victorian style. I feel I am doing pretty well so far, so I will give myself a much needed pat on the back.

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Keeping Track

After 3+ years of restoring our house, I have finally gotten around to starting a blog about the restoration process. We have many people "watching" the progress from near and afar and I want to let everyone know more about the joys and mishaps of our restoration. Maybe you long to have an old home of your own or maybe you are one of the crazy people like me who decided to by a fixer-upper. No matter what your reason for being here and reading my rantings of historic preservation and home renovation, welcome to Walnut Manor.

Many people have asked when we plan to have the project completed and I don't have an answer to that. We will get done as time and money allows and since we do a lot of the work ourselves it will depend on how much time (and patience) we have to put towards the restoration. So far we have spent countless hours, days, weeks, months and years trying to bring this old girl back to her former glory and I am sure we will be restoring for many more years to come.

Follow our progress here, on Facebook and our website http://www.kevinandcharity.com/.