It’s the Little Things

One of the most upsetting, frustrating and downright infuriating things about the (non-DIY) home renovation process is having to watch things be done two and three times before they are done properly.

For example, what’s wrong with these pictures?


Fixing this upside-down mess will be round three for this poor, defenseless 84-year-old newel post. And that’s after it was knocked to pieces when the previous owner was moving out. I don’t know how much more it can take…


Losing track of the handles in the midst of a hectic delivery schedule is one thing, but this is something completely different. It’s bad enough they’re doors to nowhere until we build a deck in the spring, let’s leave them with their dignity and not upside down/inside out…

What’s that saying about sausage-making and legislation? That you don’t want to see the grotesque process, just enjoy the final product? The same goes for home renovation. The only problem with home renovation is that if you don’t have at least one eye on the grotesque process every step of the way, there’s no way to ensure it’s being done properly.

What’s that other saying? Oh, yeah. If you want something done right, you’ll have to do it yourself.

Let There Be Light

A lot of electrical work was going on yesterday, including and especially getting light fixtures in place.

The retro pendants in the kitchen are my hands-down favorite. We held out for a sale at Restoration Hardware (though even at 20 percent off they were a splurge) and were not disappointed. Nothing tops Edison bulbs on their coolness factor (though I suppose we should run out and buy a bunch before Congress makes them illegal, too).


Also in the kitchen, the under-cabinet lighting and hood lighting are now hooked up and operational (although the hood might be temporary, since I don’t think the fan is in yet and there might be some finagling with the duct cover that goes above it. Also, don’t ask me about the duct cover. It’s our latest nightmare…)

IMG_0815For the powder room, we found a little sort-of-reproduction Art Deco fixture for cheap at either Home Depot or Lowe’s (both carry it but I can’t remember where we bought it). Because of the low, low price and it being one of the least ugly repro pieces available, it’s a pretty and endearing “for now” fixture that could quite possibly become permanent.

IMG_0763Oh, and speaking of ugly, what is it with ceiling fans? Why do they all have to be so ugly? We got a hot tip from a friend (Hi, M in Cincy!) on some very, very beautiful ones from Minka Aire. But with very, very beautiful comes a high price tag. So they are now our “Someday Fans,” on the list of Things We Will Buy When We Recover From Phase 1 Renovations. For now, ours are from Lowe’s, all matching upstairs (Easy Breeze) and one for the porch, to keep the air moving and the skeeters away (Oceanside), all by Harbor Breeze, apparently Lowe’s in-house brand.


For the dining room, Mr. Rowhouse tracked down a great chandelier (at a great price!) on CraigsList. Our house is a little more Art Deco/Craftsman than its last home, a beautiful Logan Circle Victorian, but we think it fits in nicely with all our oil-rubbed bronze and the red dining room walls.


‘Fridge Friday!

The last of the appliance deliveries is complete!


This means the gang is all here: range, dishwasher and refrigerator. It will be a little while before they’re all hooked up and ready to run, but it’s great to have everything in the house and at least close the gaping holes in the kitchen where they will end up.

It’s also a bit of a relief that the ‘fridge doesn’t jut out into the opening between the kitchen and the lounge nearly as much as we thought it would.

IMG_0715 IMG_0705

Counter Tops

With the counter tops going in yesterday, it’s starting to look like a real kitchen and not just a bunch of boxes screwed into the walls and floor.

IMG_0664 IMG_0666

Even though we thought we had one more decision on the counters to make — honed or polished — it kind of got made for us. Upon examining our slab before templating and cutting, Lisbet found some deep scratches on the polished side, scratches too deep to buff out. So, honed it is.

We know it means being a little more careful in the day-to-day with spills and acidic foods to prevent stains and etching, and we have to be diligent about resealing the marble to begin with. But we already love the soft marble glow from the honed surface.

The high side of the dual-height counter extends just enough into the dining room to be useful but not intrusive. And we worked with Robert to get mortised “hidden” supports underneath instead of bulky, ugly, L-brackets to hold it up. Love that clean look!

Some of the corners are a little rounder than we expected, but they’re growing on us and easily better off if you’re prone to banging into the corners of things (ahem, Mrs. Rowhouse). Overall, we couldn’t be happier.


Floor Refinishing: The Reveal!

What color did we decide to go with?

English Chestnut!

Minwax English Chestnut on white oak, downstairs

Minwax English Chestnut on white oak, downstairs


Minwax English Chestnut on heart pine upstairs

It’s a little red and a little brown and it looks great with the existing, old woodwork (in all its dirty, patinia-ed, shellac-ed glory) while still letting the grain of the wood shine through. A few coats of polyurethane will not only protect the floors but also make for richer, deeper color.

It’s a little darker on the upstairs floors, which are heart pine, than the downstairs’ white oak, but it’s not like they’re going to be next to each other or anything.

We are so excited to see the final result, post-polyurethane, next week. But for now, we (and everyone else but the floor refinishing team) are pretty much banned from the house as they sand and stain and sand and stain and poly, poly, polyurethane.

The real reveal — of the finished floors — is coming next week!

Floor Refinishing: Decision Time!

Sometimes it blows my mind that even after all the decisions we’ve made and stuff we’ve picked out, there is still more to decide and pick out.

And this one is a biggie: stain for the hardwood floors.

Woah. It’s only, like, you know, the whole house. No pressure.

We know it’s going to be impossible to match the existing woodwork, between the original slightly orange-red shellac finish and the patina (plus years of nicotine and dryer lint and everything else). But we still want to come close and/or compliment it. It’s also going to pretty much look like two different stains upstairs and downstairs when it’s all said and done because there are two different kinds of wood in the house: white oak downstairs and heart pine upstairs, both all original.

Since it’s such a big decision — and because those wee stain swatches in the Minwax brochures are even more deceptive than paint swatches, since there’s no way to know how it will look on your wood until its actually on there — Robert told us to pick four or five off the list and the floor guys would do some test patches for us.

We took it one step farther by giving him our four and saying if there was something he or the floor team had in mind that wasn’t on our list, they should do those, too. So we ended up with a lot to choose from.DSCN7527 DSCN7525 DSCN7524

Yeah, 11.

They also did some upstairs right in front of us, which meant we got to watch the “sanding Zamboni” do its thing.


Oh, did you think we were going to tell you right away which one we picked? Ha! We had to agonize so you can sweat it out a little, too!

Tune in tomorrow for the reveal!

Paint Colors

So I had this dream maybe a month ago. I was painting. It was in the odd little room that will be our shared office and it was with an exquisite robin’s egg blue. I had just finished the guest room, which was a pale yellow, sort of the color of butter. Somehow, when I woke up, I knew the sunroom needed to be pale yellow, too.

Yeah, okay, I’m a little weird. I also sometimes dream about very specific measurements and cutting wood or using a particular router bit or rearranging furniture. It’s actually possibly and inherited trait. But it all usually works out really well.

In this case, finding exactly the right paint colors became a bit of an obsession, especially that almost-teal-ish blue.

On top of that obsession, there has been another: making sure all the painting is done before the floor team come in to sand and refinish the whole house.

The guys working on the walls, to be frank, haven’t been the most careful of crews. There’s a ton of drippy drywall mud on the floors and woodwork and light switches and doors and pretty much everywhere. Most of the rooms were taped off but there are still stray brush swipes on the 80-year-old wood trim. Already worried about a lack of attention to detail, the last thing we want is to turn these guys loose with paintbrushes for anything beyond touch up work once the floors are redone.

We may have been a little sharp (regrettably) with Robert on this point. And that might mean he, in turn, got a little sharp with his crew. But! It worked. After a huge push, all the major painting is done, and right at the last minute. Floor work begins today.

SW6994 Glad Yellow
in the sun room and the guest room

SW6937 Tantalizing Teal
in the office

These two rooms are literally a dream come true. I was a little worried that the teal would be too green, but when the natural light streams in from the sunroom, it is lovely. And that yellow? Hello! Now that I’ve seen it in person, I can’t imagine a more lovely compliment to our original woodwork.

SW0010 Wickerwork
in the lounge area

The lounge at the back of the house, known as the “breakfast porch” in original adverts for houses like ours, is the only part of the house where the woodwork has been/will be painted. I’ve been obsessed with Restoration Hardware’s “Latte” for years (and even forced it on my parents before I had a house of my own!) and this was a very close match, from Duron’s “interior preservation” historic collection.

SW0057 Chinese Red
in the dining room

Mr. Rowhouse wanted a dramatic red in the dining room. I was a little nervous but it turned out amazing (this photo is perhaps a little brighter than it looks in person). And no, Duron isn’t making a communist reference — it’s also from the historic preservation collection and a throwback to the 1920s trendy obsession with all things Egyptian and “Oriental.” We hope to some day get a restored period chandelier for this room and a lot of them showcase those influences on Art Deco housewares.

SW6461 Isle of Pines
in the powder room

This one surprised both of us. I was worried it would be way too incredibly dark in the wee powder room and Mr. R thought it would be a considerably more piney (and darker). Even thought it’s not 100 percent what we thought it would be, it looks terrific. Those teeny swatches can be deceiving.

SW0057 Chinese Red in the dining room meets
SW7016 Mindful Gray in the kitchen

Most of the kitchen walls will be covered with cabinets, tile and appliances, but the little bit that isn’t is the gentle gray. I’m hoping it compliments, rather than clashes with, the stainless steel and tile. Thankfully it doesn’t look too weird next to the Chinese Red in the transition from dining room to kitchen, which we want to feel like two very distinct spaces.

In spite of some of these bold choices, we did chicken out a little bit. We couldn’t commit to a color for the living room or master bedroom so those two, plus the hallways and stairwell ended up with our “default” color, SW7012 Flour White. It makes for a lot of beautifully bright rooms and if/when we’re ready for color, it will be easy to make the switch over the existing white.

Anyone have color suggestions for those spaces?

SW7012 Flour White
in the bedroom