Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Great Den Debaucle of Canada Day 2010

 On Canada Day, Greg and I were sitting in the den, looking at the monstrosity of a closet, and the ugly carpet, and the flesh-coloured walls, and dreaming of what the room would look like with it all gone. Greg looked to me and said, "Do you want to pull out this closet? Today?" Never one to back down from a renovation challenge, I said, "SURE LET'S DO IT!!!!!". Whether this was a smart thing to say or not would remain to be seen. However something had to be done with this room; the closet was eating half of it. It was ugly and pretty useless (all it had in it was my Etsy vintage clothes... which do take up alot of room but there's an empty closet in the basement!)
This is a very serious endeavour.

I had gone to the ReStore one day and picked up 3 unopened rolls of vintage wallpaper for $3 (I know.. break the bank) It was really cute, a creamy white background with yellow rose bunches scattered throughout. What I had planned for this was to wallpaper the ugly closet which was made from wood panelling, the real stuff not the plastic. Anyways, I was going to do that and paint the walls a really light creamy yellow, and paint the doors of the closet a vibrant yellow. The carpet was a milky coffee colour, so it would still look OK.

I was talking earlier about the Deal Vibes I get from Value Village, and how things come to you right when you need them. Well I don't know if you could say that we NEEDED it, but Greg happened across 3 rolls of vintage wallpaper in an awesome Folksy design, also for $3. This wallpaper changed our whole plan for the room. Why wallpaper the closet when we could rip it out? Why not wallpaper that new wall with the awesome new paper from VV? Indeed; why not. The closet that we were going to keep for a few years was going Bye Bye. What a pity :)

Pretty flesh colour! Bad furniture layout on account of having no space!

I forgot to take a "Before" picture before we started ripping things out so.... please forgive the mess.
We wasted no time. We got the hammer and the prybar and went to work. I think that this closet would have stood up against a hurricane, there was about one billion nails in it. Big nails, little nails, nails with a head and nails without. Whoever built this thing (GERARD) wanted to make sure it was stable. It took all day to remove.
See how big it was? So much space inside! Greg crowbars away.
This is where some unbelievable wiring started rearing it's ugly head. Nails notwithstanding, the wiring job that was behind the closet was, to say the least, terrifying. I mean, it wasn't going to catch FIRE or anything, but it was certainly not up to any code that has even been written on this earth. Gerard was a great recycler. He used random discarded things and made them into new random things. For example, if you look behind Greg you can see a punch hole (so professional) with an electric box inside. Above that is another punch hole. That held this:
My electrician didn't even know what that was. Some kind of crazy junction. Anyways the wires coming out of it were old and if I dare guess, probably taken from some other leftovers, somewhere in the world. This was fixed first thing. I do so love the punch holes though, don't you? Why bother cutting out a hole when you can PUNCH ONE? Yes. Impatience wins again.

There was another punch hole in the ceiling. I should mention that all of these surfaces were hidden behind the panelling that lined the closet. All of these things were surprises for us. Nice nice surprises. Anyways here is the other punch hole:
This wire leads to the light in the ceiling. The light switch was installed on the outside of the closet, which was a weird spot. I always went to flick it on the wall beside the door cause.. I guess that's the natural spot for a switch to be? Anyways I never did get used to the wonky switch placement. I think that it was put there because they didn't want to open up walls to put in a new switch (the old switch would have been by the kitchen door which no longer existed). So WE got the lovely job of opening the walls :) Yeay!!

Where the particle board is on the floor, used to be the stairs coming into the kitchen from the back door.
Because this was not our first reno in the house, we knew that we would find some interesting things. We ALWAYS find interesting things in a room that was redone by the previous family. So many nails were bent from bad hammering, and screws put in on an angle which resulted in it getting stripped, I really wonder if this guy ever took a breath and thought out what he was doing. I know that he used to own a memorial business, as in gravestones, so he had to have some patience in order to cut stuff in granite and marble. Maybe he wore out all his patience during the day and took it out on his house.

Here is another example of recycling old material to fashion a crazy solution to a problem:
Making the ceiling level, one scarp stick at a time!

Hey would you like to see the original paint colour of the kitchen? I'll bet you do!
That blue colour is the first paint colour on that wall. It used to be the wall going into the stairway. I actually kind of like it, and it's close to the colour we chose for the front room (we didn't even try to be historical that time!) You can see here how the stairs were covered up. In my talk about the hallway I'll show some pictures of how they switched everything over. I think it would have been a big fat mess!

Here is where I'd like to talk about my floor. We knew what was under the carpet because we had lifted it up in the closet. We didn't know what kind of shape it would be in, or whether we'd like to keep it and maybe get an area rug for the room or something. The floor was really dirty from years of being under cheap carpet padding, so tit took me one full afternoon to get it scrubbed clean. The tiles smelled when they were wet! I have been given a few ideas of what brand or kind of tiles these are, but I am pretty sure they are asbestos. As long as they aren't disturbed they pose no problem... the amount of asbestos in them is pretty insignificant anyways. They are usually called VCT, Vinyl Composite Tiles. Someone said they looked like Marmoleum which is still made today, however this pattern is long gone. Which is unfortunate, because as well as the spot for the stairs, there are a few other areas that need repairing. So Greg and I made the hard decision to cover them back up. We did leave them underneath either for posterity or to use one day, or maybe just to let some other people 50 years from now take up a carpet and shit themselves because of the awesome original floor!!! I don't know how that floor and the blue paint would have looked together though... I think it may have been quite hideous. Taste in paint colour is easy to fix though :)

Still wet and shiny

I like my tiles. I will see them again in 20 years or so. 
Because we redid the closet wall, we had to get baseboards to match the rest of the room (and the house). I would like to give a shout out to the nice guy at Dimension Cabinet and Millwork in Ottawa. He took a little job and did great work! It was a bit expensive, but the price was the same at the other places I had talked to. He made it out of MDF and it almost exactly matches the old stuff. For the money, it was worth it. You can't have one wall with different baseboards than everywhere else! Then you might as well call me Gerard.

Anyways stay tuned for the finishing of the room. Demolition is always more fun that cleaning up.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Kitchen: Just A Bit Of Work??

Our kitchen used to be the main floor bedroom. The den used to be the kitchen. Back in the 80's they were swapped. The new kitchen is quite a bit bigger, but it's a total 80's flashback! I am SO SO SAD that the original kitchen is not in this house. Nothing beats those 50's cupboards for functionality and durability. In my laundry room is a bank of cupboards, top and bottom, with a fake marble counter, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they came from my kitchen. The marble is really unobtrusive, so I would have liked it! Ah well, what can you do? REMODEL!

When we bought the house, we thought that the kitchen was painted a light green. It was in pretty good shape. The floor is kind of cool, as far as old vinyl laminate goes. The cupboards are custom made, with solid wood doors. The wall oven (yeay! Love them) was also for the early 80's, as was the dishwasher. Things looked clean and orderly.
You can see the coach lights and the monstrous ceiling fan, also wall oven and dishwasher.

Well there is certainly something to be said for outside appearances. Not that there was anything horrible going on, but there was just a really long list of little things that sucked. The sink is pointing into the darkest corner of the kitchen. They had hardwired a TV into the wall underneath the counter. Like, how is that possible? Well someone thought it was a good idea. Bare wires under a sink... good thoughts, those. There were carriage lights mounted on the cupboard above the sink, which looked kind of Gothic in that Elephant and Castle kind of way, but which I came to loath. Those were also wired in very strangely. I tell you, my electrician had a good laugh or too at our expense. Again, this is an area that our inspector didn't even bring up.. he looked under the sink, went, 'ewww..." closed the door,... and that was that. We didn't know any better. I recomemmnd to everyone I know to get a separate electrical and plumbing inspection when buying a place. Especially if it's an older home. Totally worth the money, believe me. I think we could have negotiated lower with what we found out later. Ah well... we must move on :)

I like to dream up scenarios involving the decision making capabilities of the old owners. The one that I have imagined for my kitchen involves a loving idea to make his wife a nice new kitchen that she will enjoy cooking in. However I think that he designed it as a surprise for her, without consulting her as to functionality or how a cook would use a space. I think he had good intentions but I think he was an impatient man who didn't like to listen to others. The cupboards are totally useless, space-wise. very badly designed. Additionally, the sink is in the shittiest spot in the room. It is recessed where one would stand to do dishes, so that someone can open the drawer on one side and open a door on the other side, without having the dishwasher move anywhere. I call this the Ass Hole.

Solomon stands by the sink

See? This is the Ass Hole!

If you look at the first picture, you can see where the sink is recessed, how rough the side of the counter-top is. It's like he sawed a hunk out of it. I don't get it. The other problem with this area is the the seam for the halves of counter meet behind the sink, and cross through where the faucets are into the back corner. This area is rotting out. It gets wet all the time and leaks down into the cupboard below. This has now started to mould. Overall it is a shabby job, due to lack of foresight and capability. SOME PEOPLE SHOULD NOT DO RENO'S ON THEIR OWN! You know who you are!

I changed out the coach lights as soon as I could. A funny story about them: There is a barbershop down the street, two old French guys run it. Greg went to get his hair cut one day soon after we'd moved in. The guy, I think it was Jack, not the other guy Jaques, asked Greg if he had moved into the nieghbourhood, and where. So he said where our house was, and who had owned it before. "Oh yes!" says Jack, "that's the one with the lights in the kitchen! I used to cut that guy's hair at home! Weird lights, those!" Anyways, I bought some cheap sconces at Rona's that are actually meant to be indoor lights. When we remodel these cabinets are coming down so I don't really care if they look great or not. The old lights are now on the garage, where they belong. However the Gothic hinges and pulls are still there to remind me. Awesome.
Ah yes. Back to the paint. We thought it was green when we bought the house. Years of cooking and smokign had rendered our kitchen this colour, though it was actually blue underneath. A light blue, mind you, but blue is not green at all. We discovered this because the cross that was hanging above our window left a blue cutout on the wall after it'd been moved. Also we took the chair rail down and as we sanded the repair putty down the under colour shone through. I had stopped smoking a few months before and I can tell you, dealing with the stain of years of smoke really made me happy with my decision to quit. It's really really disgusting to look at those walls and think about why they are like that. Ew. But anyways, I liked the kitchen green so that's what I painted it. It went with the brown floor and the colour of the cupboards. Also green is my favourite colour :) We made the ceiling white and the trim as well.
My father-in-law made us some really nice shelves for extra storage. These are not them.

Something else that we learned about buying a house is to ask if any included appliances actually work. You would assume that they do, cause what were the last people using? Greg ended up putting a new motor in the dishwasher (it was way cheaper to do this plus it's kind of fun to keep around and tell people that it's older than your husband), but the most disappointing part was that the oven was a piece of crap. It took 45 minutes to preheat and did not cook evenly. AT ALL. I was sooooo excited for a wall oven. I used it for a year and this spring I bought a 7 year old awesome one off of Kijiji. It is a convection oven and everything! It takes 6 minutes to preheat, cooks evenly, and it's beautiful. I will miss it when I put in my turquoise oven when we remodel :(  So, FYI, ask questions about appliances.


One more thing that we did was change the fan. It was totally ugly... brown wicker blades, big bulbous light painted with brown field flowers... you know the kind. It was greasy and disgusting and it overpowered the space. Again I went to Kijiji and got a nice white one for $25. It looks way better.

Not a whole lot different looking, just fresher.
That's it for now in the kitchen. We have to save up to redo it the way we want. Kitchens cost so much money and i just know we'll be doing plumbing and electrical once we get behind the walls. I can't wait to get going on it though!!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Bathroom: Part 2

After we ripped out the medicine cabinet and the other one on the wall, we had to decide what we would do with the holes. These are things we didn't think about before because well... we didn't know what was back there! We definitely wanted to add some chrome and get an old style medicine cabinet.

When we took the old medicine cabinet out, there was a hole in the wall which seemed to be a standard sized hole for the original cabinet that was put in in '53. We were scared about removing the light because we didn't know what kind of crazy assed wiring would be goin on but thankfully it wasn't too bad (past experience has made me wary of any Gerard renos). I had some days to kill before Baby Time so I headed to the ReStore by my house to see what they had. Sometimes I feel like stores send me good vibes, telling me that they have what I am looking for if I were to come RIGHT NOW! Well the restore definitely sent those vibes out to me that day because I found a couple of medicine cabinets, plus the perfect light shade! They had a few good ones to choose from but in the end I stuck with my gut and it looks fab.

We went to the Electrical And Plumbing Store, also by our house, to get the white cover with 3 prong outlet. This store is super sweet, they have alot of old stuff hiding in the back and the guys that work there are older so they know what you are talking about when you ask them crazy shit... unlike Home Depot or Rona, though they do try. I stole the silver knob off a different light at the Restore (in all fairness I bought the whole thing but it was like a hybrid of the stuff I wanted). Greg wired it up and I love it!

OK. So, before we could install anything, we had to paint everything. We got out the BIN, covered up the tub (a luxury it hadn't been offered before) and Greg got to work. I must give Greg props for doing so much work, because I was so pregnant I couldn't do anything except tell him spots he'd missed or how to paint better or faster and take pictures of him. I'm glad this was mostly my idea and he did most of the job. Thanks baby!!!
Nice fake serious face.. I know you are totally happy right now.

Painting in the daytime....

... painting in the nighttime....

....painting all my troubles away!

A part of this that I found pretty cool was looking at the different layers of paint that were on the walls. You can tell the history of a place by peeling back the layers! First was Ugly Cream, the original colour. Whether it was a primer or actually the first colour ever, I do not know. Next was Ugly Yellow, a nicotine-stain sort of yucky light yellow-cream. The next colour is a light blue, almost a grey-green-blue. It probably looked decent because the tiles have a tinge of this colour in it. Over top all of it is the Pepto Pink that is so hated by me and everyone else.
Pretty, isn't it :)

I took alot of pictures of this reno because I was really excited to be doing it. It was the first room I tackled when we moved in and it is always the place I start at when cleaning the house. Here is a pic of the medicine cabinet hole, spruced up by me!

See how Gerard broke that top corner tile to make room for the ugly wood-backed light? WHY IN GOD'S NAME DID YOU DO THAT????????
Also in this picture you can see what was behind the other cabinet, in the pink rectangle. My theory is, that when the house was built, there was a little cabinet there. At some point Gerard took it down and put something else up, that was smaller. So he used extra tile to fill in the inside of the rectangle. Then in the 80's he just threw up the ugly cabinet and left us to find it in 2010. Here is a picture of said handiwork:
I put that picture there for a few days cause the background colour was disgusting and I didn't know how long I'd have to look at it. I was kind of scared that we had bitten off a bit more than we could chew coming up to Baby Time. What were we going to do with that wall??? Should we paint it Pink? Should we leave up those extra tiles? Should we get a new cabinet? It was a topic of discussion for many days.

We decided to take down the tile. We got a sample paint thing at Home Depot and matched it as close as we could to the plain pink tile. We didn't know what else to do with it, it's a very odd feature. One day we may figure out something better but for now it will be pink. It's not overly noticeable when you go into the room.

We're gonna have to fix that top tile... grrr

That is the chrome Space Saver I got at Home Outfitters. We had a really hard time figuring out what we were going to do in the way of storage, and we looked around at all the major stores to find something like this. They were all really ugly and didn't fit the look we were going for. Then one day, as I was out wasting time again, I went to Home Outfitters to take a look at what they had. HOLY EXPENSIVE, BATMAN! But, there were a few on sale, hanging out on the floor in boxes. This baby was originally $190 and I got it for $40. It is plain, shiny chrome, exactly what I was looking for. Again I think I was feeling those Deal Vibes :) We are still not convinced that it is right for the space but it will do until we stumble across the perfect solution.

This is my light. I love my light.

This is my medicine cabinet. I also love it.

One problem we had installing the cabinet was that my measurments were off. It was smaller than the hole. So we used pieces of wood inside to prop it up and then we framed the gap with scrap Gerard wood (there is a tonne of crap wood in our garage). There is some funky wood/tile crap going on over there but you can't see it when the door is closed. And who cares anyways!
Do you like the colour we picked for the walls? It's called Celery Ice, and it's very pretty :) It's a very light minty sort of green, but not too cool of a shade. I think it goes perfectly with the pink tiles, and it pulls the other colours out of the little tiles so the pink isn't so in-your-face. I like pink bathrooms and all, but this was a very hard one to work with. It would have been easier I think to have those all-pink tiled bathrooms! If you have one of these you might argue that though!

Here is a montage of my faucets. Please ignore the grout, as I said earlier these people smoked in the house for 50 years and the grout is uuuugly. Also there is some nice patching done on the spout. I will have to fix that at a later date.
As for the sink, we are going to leave it there as it is. One day we'd like to put in an old sink, possibly one on chrome legs (eeee!!!) but tose cost alot of money and we also need some plumbing done under there so I painted the cabinet white and replaced the hardware. It looks pretty good!! Nice and fresh, like.

We also painted the ceiling and trim in white. Now I can bare to look up when I'm having a bath without wanted to gag!!! The swan is still there, but I kind of like him :)
These are a few of my favourite features in my bathroom:

The pink shower curtain rings came with the house. They were attached to a god-awful brown grandma shower curtain frilled with pink lace. The second picture shows off the paint colour well, and also my cool switch plate cover. We have this style in other rooms too and I don't know if it really goes well in here but it is better than the old one. Lastly the built-in towel bar and paper holder are original in pink and awesome. The paper holder doesn't like double rolls, in case you were wondering!

So that pretty much concludes our bathroom renovation. We didn't do too much but it really made a huge difference. One day I hope to add to this part of the blog, maybe we'll get a new (old) sink, or maybe we'll re-tile the floor in a nice pinky mosaic! And just so you know, we got the bathroom done with a week to spare before our little Else joined the world. Now she will never have to know what horror was awaiting her in our 80's ugly bathroom!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Bathroom: Part 1

At 36 weeks pregnant, I decided it was time to renovate the ghastly bathroom.

It looks good here, right?

Some people might say I was nesting. I say I was trying to distract myself from the waiting game and the unknown. I KNEW I hated my bathroom as it stood and what better time to rip it apart than when I was home all day, without a baby?

Well. It was a good idea in some ways and a bad one in others. Luckily for all involved, the good outweighed the bad. The bad really only consisted of puffed up feet and a sore back (REALLY sore) so that is all I will say about that. The good is, I got my bathroom to the way I wanted it! Almost!

When we moved in, our bathroom was an 80's nightmare. The original tub, toilet, and wall tiles were intact. The bathroom faucets are also original and I love them. But at some point in the 80's, the previous owners had decided to redo the cabinets and floor. The floor is smooth ceramic tile, in white, and I think it must be electrically charged because it is a dirt and dust MAGNET. It was also installed wrong by the toilet, so the tiles are not actually flush with the floor. A nice spot for you-know-what to hide in. Yummy.

The cabinets... oh the cabinets. I will say that they are solid wood, which is a rare thing to get these days. But it's that oak in honey colour that screams 1982 and to top it all off... the face of the doors had wicker on it. Sheesh.

You can't actually see the wicker in these pictures because I covered it up with little pink roses shelf paper. It was a quick fix that lasted about 1 week before I got fed up and riped it out. Anyways you can see what I mean about the oak. Not to mention that the medicine cabinet and the cabinet over the toilet were totally overbearing in that room. The bathroom is fairly small as is and these two huge pieces of wood made it feel totally cramped. I also HATE oak cabinets. And oak and pink just don't go well together, do they? No, no they do not.

We knew we'd be dealing with some tile issues, because, in true Gerard style (the old guy that messed with our house), he had screwed the cabinet right into the wall. We could see that he did it here:
It was scary taking that thing down!!!! Would we find a gaping hole? Would we find a wall of ruined tiles? There was only one way to find out... take it down. We are still wondering what was there before, because behind the cabinet, you can see there is another outline of plain pink tiles. It forms a rectangle, and it looks like Gerard had filled in the sides with leftover small tiles. Maybe it used to be a small cabinet. Maybe there was a mural (I wish, but I doubt). In any case, there wasn't too much damage on the tile. Just on the small ones, and not much on the big pink ones.
See that orange stuff? That, my friends, is nicotine stain. The grout in the bathroom is gross, in spots. I think they sat in the tub and on the can to smoke because that is where it's the worst. I have managed to get it mostly out of the tub area but it's been a year of scrubbing while showering and it's still off-colour. I have no hope for the other areas.

The paint in the bathroom was almost as bad as the cabinets. EVERYTHING was painted Pepto Bismol Pink. And to boot I think it was done in oil/enamel. Awesome. I HATE when the walls and trim are painted the same colour, but I cannot stand when the celing is also the same. I felt like I was in the stomach of a giant with acid reflux. That is not a relaxing feeling when you are trying to have a bath (or do other things...)
You can see some gross grout here, also the shiny sheen of pink paint. Urgh. Just thinking of it makes me feel like singing the Pepto Bismol song.

The light fixture was also a work of wonder. It was installed upside down, so that the lights shone up, not down. It's a wall sconce. It's attached to a piece of wood, so you know, it won't fall off the wall. It had lots of dead bugs in it. Mmmmm. Also I hate brass and glass. So ugly.

I want to show you my pretty toilet. When we first moved in we had a plumber come in to do their inspection and to tell us all the things we might need to have done. We had our pipes scoped (which was really cool to watch but it cost us way more in the end... the cap on the pipe wouldn't budge so the poor guy had to saw it off or something similar, and then it JUST SO HAPPENED to be an odd sized hole.. so we had to pay to get a new cap put on it that was a standard size.) and our nice plumber really liked our bathroom! He had a good laugh at the colour, but what he really thought was cool was that our toilet was original and so were the bathtub faucets! He said he hasn't seen an old toilet like ours for a long time! It made me feel happy inside :)
The last bit for Part 1 is the window in the bath. Alot of older homes have windows near the bathtub. I think, and I may be wrong (but I doubt it) it was so that you could open up the room for ventilation and mould prevention. People didn't really used to shower like we do today, they were bathers. So you wouldn't really have to worry about standing in front of a window for the whole street to see you while you showered. Now, as I said, this bathroom was renovated in the 80's, when people DID shower frequently. So to solve the problem of an open window they did what anyone else would do: they put frosting on the glass. That was a good idea! What was NOT a good idea was... to frost a damned swan into the glass.

I am happy that there was something there at least, and I can peek through the swan to see the street (and hopefully it is not see-through from the other side!) The drawback to having a window in the shower is moisture. Every time we showered the window sill would get wet. It seemed that there was a little bit of previous water damage to the sill, before it was painted pink, but it wasn't too bad. I also think that they stopped showering so much at this point. Maybe they were getting older and afraid of slipping or something. In any case, when we moved in it was OK. But we were wrecking it very well on our own. We jimmy rigged a curtain out of our old shower curtain liner and it is still there to this day.

This concludes Part 1 of The Bathroom. I will fill you in on our renovation process in subsequent chapters!
Solomon loves the tub

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Our Home: The Beginning

So, as you all probably know, Greg and I bought a house in the spring of 2009. It was built in 1953, and we are the third owners. The first owners left in 1958, and so that means that the second owners had this house for 51 years! That is a long time to live in a place. When we started our search for a house, we wanted to find a place that had original character and a garage for Greg. Those are pretty wide parameters. I should say, that I was looking for houses online for a few years before Greg finally got on board. I think this was a good thing, because I had time to prepare him for what we'd be in for, and I also had a pretty good handle on the market in our neighbourhood (we moved pretty close to our old awesome apartment).
Speaking of our old apartment, here are a few pics of it, for posterity. I really liked that place!

We wanted to stay in actual Vanier, because the houses were all what we liked, and the prices are comparatively very low. It is super close to downtown without having to pay the taxes or prices of places in the Glebe, Sandy Hill or Westboro. We looked at a few places, one that was super disgusting and mouldy (and also way overpriced), and one that was a fixer upper but had alot of original details. But they weren't exactly right. We looked at a place being sold by the owner, who had taken a two bedroom and made it into one, so that it was basically a master suite with a huge ugly bathroom. The basement was finished but this dude had a thing with Jewelstone, which is like plaster. He had plastered a Greek God/ess fresco in the bathroom, and also a huge mother Sens logo on the basement floor (I'll never forget when he asked us if we liked the Sens on the way down to the basement and we said, Not Really. Totally disappointed.) I don't think he ever sold his house.

There had been a house on MLS for sale for like, a year, and it didn't have any interior photos on the webpage. It was priced low and was being billed as a fixer upper, but it wasn't exactly in the area we wanted. At this point we weren't seriously looking. But one day we saw an Open House sign on the street where this house was so we decided to go take a look out of curiosity. We walked into a baby blue room with floral furniture and blue carpets. The agent was happy to see us. I knew this wasn't the house on MLS (turns out it was our next door neighbour!) I knew that it was a great place and so did Greg. It needed a paint job and some small things to update it, but it still had the original bathroom, for the most part, and a nice big kitchen. But the room that got me was the basement! All over wood panelling! Yes! Fake fireplace! Awesome! Cold storage; instant bar fridge!

When we walked away from the house I said to Greg, I bet we can get this house for X amount. He shook his head like I wasn't thinking straight. But that night we talked about it. I could tell he liked the place as much as I did. I suddenly knew what people meant when they said that you know it's your house when you walk into it. I knew we had to try to get this place. So we called up my agent, who was on a beach in Miami, and had his assistant take us through the house again. LOVE. We were able to negotiate a lower price because of the updates it would need, but we played these updates up because most people would look at our bathroom and see a reno project: I saw pink tile and original bathtub an toilet and was thrilled! And you know what? The price I told Greg when we walked away that first day was the price we got it for, exactly.

That being said, we definitely had more updating to do than we had initially thought (WORD OF ADVICE: Never use the inspector your agent recommends!!! EVEEEER!!!) The previous owner was a do-it-youself kind of guy, but he was also a half-assed rig-a-ma-jig kind of guy. Our electrician took some pictures of the stuff this guy had used, cause he'd never seen anything like it before. Thankfully only 2 rooms where ever redone (the kitchen and the basement.. well I guess the den too, which USED to be the kitchen) so we know where Dude's handiwork is. I am scared to uncover more when we do the kitchen and basement some day! In any case, we did the electrical work that needed doing, and started painting the rooms. I must give a shout out to B-I-N, the enamel shellac paint because this stuff has saved my effing life. There were nicotine stains on the walls (which I didn't even notice until the inspector pointed them out) of the main floor, and a bit upstairs, so every time we paint anything we have to seal it. Instead of scrubbing and washing the walls, which takes forever (ask my neighbour who bought the TLC house) we basically give them a wipe then paint them with BIN. It acts as a sealer of smells, stains, and is also a primer. It stinks but it totally works.It took a bit of trial and error at first, especially on the popcorn ceilings, but once we had the hang of it there was no turning back. This stuff works like a charm over nicotine and other stuff that won't come off your walls. I love it.

Anyways, we took up the carpet in the front room, which was a matching shade of robin egg blue to the walls, and there was hardwood underneath! We were a little trepidacious about this because it was a very big room and we didn't know what we might find. However, the carpet was old and smoky (though the house did not smell at all) and also ugly, so we thought, if the hardwood was bad in the middle or something we would deal with it, or carpet it again. This was a big job! All the little staples and nails had to be pulled out and the floors cleaned, but overall the hardwood was in great shape! The previous owners at one point had nailed a strip of carpet to the hardwood, leading from the front door to the hallway. There is a bit of water damage there but really that is the only place, and it should come out once we sand those floors!

The front room was our first big project. We didn't take too many pictures (actually none at all) because we were SO EXCITED to have our own place and SO EXCITED to get rid of all the sickly blue! I have a picture from the MLS page, that I saved before it was taken down. It's a little small but you can see how yucky it was:

We didn't realize until we started painting that the wallpaper on the far wall was actually wood panelling printed with scenes of Victorian Paris. Totally weird. I don't have any information about that kind of stuff, as in when it was popular, and was it original, but it is certainly unique and no one believes us until they feel it for themselves. This kind if thing is why we got the house for cheap, but why we love it so much! I am scared to ever pull it down because there is some sketchy wiring going on with those wall sconces (they are not hardwired, but there is a plug that comes out of the wall and you plug them into the regular socket. DIY or was that the way it's supposed to go? I don't even want to know...) .

We had a hard time picking a wall colour that would go with the panelling, which is brown, the hardwood, and the tiles in the entranceway which are the blue colour, and that we are leaving for now. Greg won out with his choice, Mermaids Nest. It's blue. Well, more like a dark turquoise-y blue-grey. It's nice. And it is almost the same colour as our couch and chair set from the Sally Ann (which BTW is super effing awesome). Here is a pic of the finished rooms, all decorated up. The floors are not finished but that is about the only thing left to do in here.

I would like to point out the painting on the wall in the dining room, his name is Petey and he is amazing. We got him from Yardley's in the Glebe and he cost us some $$ but he was totally worth it. He was a housewarming present to ourselves. He'd been sitting in the store for years and who else would buy a giant oil painting of a budgie? Seriously. We got a good deal on him. Now he watches you eat.

I should say a word about the title of this post, Retro Renovating.  In my researches I came across Pam's blog, Retro Renovation, which is a veritable smörgåsbord of retro house decoration and design.She discusses how to renovate your house using materials that were original to the home, and focuses mostly on mid-mod styles. I LOVE HER. I go to that site frequently to read of other people's retro renovations, the things they find at antique and estate sales, and to find resources for materials and ideas of how the styles worked. The site is something of an obsession for me and a lot of people. I will probably link back to her a million times. It's all about loving the house you are in, and fighting the everyday bore of beige paint and Ikea prints on the walls. (Though I think those have their place too). Anyways Greg and I are passionate about taking our house back to where it was when it was built, by using either flea market or Value Village finds, or reproductions, or things in the spirit of the 50's. It's a lot of fun and gives our thrifting hearts a purpose.

That's about it for this post, please join me for later instalments where I go through the wonderful mess that was the Great Den Update of Canada Day 2010, and also The Nursery and The Bathroom. I will post pics of things we buy to add to our house, and you WILL love it, I promise!

ps thanks Jen for the lovely pic of my dining room! Check her out here.