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.


  1. You are so sweet -- and so is the house. It will be one happy home for the little weebit on the way! Keep blogging!

  2. Retro rocks! Gives a fine boost of exhilaration, especially when melded with pre-existing space and landscape. Maybe this can be done large-scale, and its elements distributed such that the transformation won't be just a room, or a group of rooms, but would conquer the whole area through visual flow. I know of a few contractors who can pull that off and bring that into being with much aplomb.