143. All the Gray Is Gone…

Just when I think I’m going to post about the new back porch that is finished just in time for September (it’s not);

Or the new door that we’ve found to replace sliding glass door #3 (we haven’t);

Mr. H.C. surprises me by saying, “Let’s do the front of the house.”

He must have read my post a month or so ago, when I listed all the projects that need to occur for the front of the house to look good better. (See post 136.)

New windowsThis is the cottage up until two days ago. (Uhmmm — the way it’s looked for the last two years. Just let me say that the front looks WAY better than the back.) So with the red brick, the faded blue gray cedar shakes, and the white clapboard siding, there was just way too much going on. Sort of a stripey effect, don’t you think?

I’m actually favoring the colors of white, red, and gray; but in a google image search for “white cottage red trim” this is the first image that showed up:

old_kurtz_house
Please pardon me, if this is your house, but it’s not at all what I have in mind for the cottage. Though it does look about like the color of red that is our back porch — Segovia Red — this color right here:

Back porch rails and ceiling, newly painted

Back porch rails and ceiling, newly painted

The back porch color can be seen from both sides of the house as one drives down (or up) the road. So it counts.

I always thought when we did the exterior of the cottage, that we would try to emulate what it looked like in the forties; but we can’t really.

Back then it was white with forties green trim.

The roof was green, now it’s gray, and it will stay that color when we put on the new roof (next year?).

There was not a red back porch.

And there was no brick on the front. I’ve looked at photos of white houses with dark green and red trim, and no, I don’t want a Christmas house.

Here’s what we have now:

apple hill cottage, newly painted

Neither of us are used to seeing it without the gray. Mr. H.C. thinks it might be too much white. I was originally thinking of whitewashing the brick, but now I’m thinking yes, that might be too much white…

The sliding glass doors will be replaced sometime before winter with doors that look something like this:

IMG_6391

There hasn’t been an interactive post on this blog for awhile, so here is your chance:

  1. Should we paint the brick? If so, what color of gray? 🙂 (Maybe if we paint the doors red, it will tie in the brick color?
  2. What about door colors? Both front doors can be painted. (Keep in mind that the back porch is Segovia Red, and one can see the porch from both sides of the house.)
  3. What do you think about shutters? Mr. H.C. brought that up the other day, just as I had been thinking about them too. But I have an aversion to shutters that don’t fit the windows, and that’s a 3-window series there in the front… I’m thinking more along the lines of flower boxes under those 3 front windows. What do you think — flower boxes or shutters or neither?

I’d like to hear your thoughts, dear readers. Of course, then we’ll do what we want anyway — whatever that might be…

Here are some more shots to get you thinking…

113. If it’s Worth Doing; or, A Treatise on fixing other people’s mistakes

The DIY era is generally considered a good thing, right? In this age of instant how-to information, anyone can do anything.

And lately I’ve been wondering if that is a good thing.

I’ve had lots of time to think on this. In fixing up two old houses, Mr. H. C. and I have also been fixing other peoples mistakes. And all the time I’m thinking, ‘If you couldn’t do it right, you should have called a professional!’

The running joke at the cottage is that it was wired by Joe’s Electric. And we laugh and say its a good thing Joe was Mr. H. C.’s dad, otherwise he would come in for a lot of criticism.

Here at the city house we aren’t related to the painting crew that was here before we bought the house; consequently, the former owner has definitely been criticized. Several times. The painting crew must have been made up of ten year olds — nothing against ten year olds — and much of the other work done on the house was slipshod as well. But since I’m doing the painting, that’s what I’m noticing.

Whoever painted the basement took a giant brush and five gallons of gray latex basement paint and slopped it over everything. Door knobs. Door hinges. Metal floor drains. Electrical outlets and the covers. The lock and chain on the door. Not to mention the concrete floor.

There are slops, drips, and globs everywhere. Bristles from the brush left in the dried paint. Corners of trim left unpainted because it was, well, hard. And suddenly, it is my issue. If I just paint over the mess, now I’ve become the sloppy painter that I’m criticizing. And frankly? I don’t want the next owner complaining about me and my workmanship.

  • Any DIY-er knows to take off door hardware when the door is painted. Don’t they?
  • Any DIY-er knows to never use latex paint on metal. Don’t they?
  • Any DIY-er knows not to use oil-based paint on top of something already painted in latex. Don’t they?
  • Any DIY-er knows to take stray bristles out of the wet paint before it dries. Don’t they?

This is what worries me. What if the DIY trend is just acceptable mediocrity under the guise of pride in accomplishment?

I’m a DIY-er from way back — I helped build my first house starting in 1978, before the first Home Depot even opened its doors — so I’m including myself in this. In the interest of saving money, or pride in accomplishment, or whatever else drives us to do it ourselves, are we accepting a lesser quality than hiring someone who knows how to do it really well?

A few weeks back a blogger posted a photo of a coffee table she had painted. It looked lovely, though the photo was taken outside and there were shadows on the table. A professional furniture painter commented (very rudely) that regular people should not take on projects they can’t do.

Rudeness and Inappropriateness aside, I get what he meant. He is a professional who has honed his skill for many years and is trying to make money at it. And here come the amateurs saying Hey. We can do that! Let’s just buy some chalk paint. Or better yet, let’s make our own…

My chalk-painted chairs, $5 each from St. Vinnie's, and painted with DIY chalk paint.

My chalk-painted chairs, $5 each from St. Vinnie’s, and painted with DIY chalk paint.

I’ve done it. In fact, I do it all the time. Why should I pay someone else money when I might be able to do it?

Do you think it might be part of our national character? After all, most all Americans came here from somewhere else because someone we’re related to thought they could do better themselves.

But I digress.

As a recovering perfectionist (and married to one who is not yet recovered) I suggest that if a thing is worth doing yourself, it’s worth doing well.

Mr. H. C. is a professional who has been called in many times to rescue homeowners who got in over their heads. And I think it’s great that they had the humility to admit they couldn’t do it. I wish the former owner of our city house had called in some professionals.

When Mr. H. C. considers doing something sub-standard, he usually says, “No, it’s against my morals to do that.” I always usually smile when he says that, because, really? That’s the way everyone should work all the time. No matter what you are being paid, no matter who you are doing the work for, no matter how much (or how little) time you have to do the project. It should be “against our morals” to do sub-standard or sloppy or careless work.

If not for yourself, at least for the people who come after you, who have to fix your mistakes…

111. Random thoughts about cleaning carpets and getting a house ready to sell

I know this blog is supposed to be about the cottage…but we haven’t been spending much time there of late. We’ve been trying to plant the sign in the yard of the city house. And until you sell a house, I don’t think anyone has a clue how much Time, Intensity, Money, and Energy is expended on a house that you are leaving…

It is emotionally (and financially) draining. Unless, of course, the house you live in is perfect, in which case you just sign on with the realtor, la di da. No worries about

    that imperfect room you just lived with,
    the plumber who never gave you the inspection paperwork for the new sewer system he put in,
    the basement ceiling tile that looks moldy and might be made of asbestos tile, (thankfully, it isn’t!)
    the tree in the backyard that you hope doesn’t fall on the power lines while you’re waiting for the tree guy to show up, or
    all Mr.H.C’s junk — never mind about mine; it isn’t junk.

Lately I’ve been cleaning up and painting my old sewing room in the city house.

It was just my sewing room, crafting room, storage room, so the coordinating yellow country wallpaper put over masonite (probably in the seventies) uh, you know, didn’t matter to me. I didn’t care about the fluorescent light in the ceiling; it was good for working. The faded teal carpet didn’t matter either. Bleach spills? Paint stains? No matter.

Apparently it will matter to potential buyers.

So I was tasked with turning it into a charming little attic bedroom for a child. Or a garret for an angst-filled teenaged poet. Or another sewing room for a mom who just wants some time alone in a freshly cleaned and painted space.

I used oil-based primer over the wallpaper, and then painted the whole room creamy white. I guess it will be up to the new owner to give it personality with color. I couldn’t imagine that the carpet would clean up, but I rented an R2D2-look-alike carpet cleaner and used my new favorite product to clean the carpet. It looks good, which is also good for the pocketbook.

attic bedroom

And the wonderful new product? Folex.

Sister Nancy told me about it several years ago when she was regularly cleaning up after a new puppy. I’ve had a bottle forever, because it goes a long way, unless you are pouring it into R2D2…

At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, I Love The Stuff! It is a miracle cleaner. Non-toxic, no smell, rub it in with your fingers if you want, and watch the stain on your carpet disappear! It’s amazing. It actually works better this way, than it does diluted in the rug machine. I did go around the entire edge of the carpet with my spray bottle and a rag. The edge of the carpet, which was black, is now bluish green again. (Folex has not paid me for this blog — they don’t even know I exist.) Although I should probably write them — in the past three weeks I’ve bought six bottles. It costs $5.78 at Home Depot.IMG_4466

That’s $34.68 + $30 to rent the carpet cleaner. I also cleaned the carpet in the master bedroom as well, and we couldn’t have bought new carpet for two bedrooms for $64. And believe me, that was a worry!

And just to prove to you, it isn’t a fluke, here is the downstairs rug that I spot-cleaned:

And now, I have to go tear down moldy ceiling tiles in the basement and secretly throw away some of Mr. H.C’s junk  in the bottom of a new garbage bag. Anyone want a vintage cigarette holder/music box that Uncle John brought back from London?
vintage cigarette holder music box

No summer vacation here until the sign is in the yard.for sale sign