Dining Room Reveal

The dining room had several rugs, a large dining room table, two buffets, drop leaf tables, and  built-ins…also cluttered with stuff. I had to move things out of the way just to create a path to the kitchen when I first looked at the place.

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It took about three weeks to get rid of enough stuff in the house so we actually had room to work. Many look at these pictures and see junk, and admittedly I’ve often lamented about the task of cleaning out this house. However, the sale of this “junk” helped fund much of the restoration. Despite my occasional exasperation, overall I’m grateful so much was left behind.

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Aside from the extensive water damage over the window caused by an old leak, I didn’t see any other major issues. Given the fact that I couldn’t see much of the room, I was cautious and aware that I may find more damage the further into renovations I got…and of course I did. 

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Once all the clutter and rugs were removed I found termite damage in the floor. The kitchen nook, where we had found the termite swarm, is adjacent to the dining room so it wasn’t a total surprise. I had hoped to refurbish the original floors, so I was disappointed when I realized how extensive the damage was.

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We kept as much flooring as possible, but over 50 feet had to be cut out and replaced. On the plus side, termites do not like hard wood and had left my beautiful walnut inlay alone.

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Next the built-ins, damaged wallpaper and plaster were removed and the walls given a coat of primer.

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Matching crown molding and baseboard trim were installed where the built-ins once stood. The dining room was painted Pearly White to match the rest of the house, and once painting was complete, the floors were refurbished and stained. We used Minwax Golden Oak and one coat of Minwax Provincial on top of that.

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I was thrilled the original crystal chandelier was in good condition, but the brass gave it a dated look. The chandelier was given a makeover with a dark coat of bronze paint.

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Custom built molding and classic recessed paneled wainscoting were installed and painted to match the trim throughout the house.

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The radiator cover was also painted white to blend seamlessly with the existing millwork.

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I probably say this about every room that gets renovated at one point in time, but I think this is my favorite renovation so far. Now that dining room renovations are complete, the room is ready for entertaining!

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Garden Updates

My summer spent landscaping and overhauling the garden last year was completely worth it! The majority of shrubs I planted were perennials, so I had to wait until spring to see if they survived and grew. I am happy (and surprised) to report that my garden is thriving and looks great!

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Last summer I planted two small tree peonies, which didn’t flower (it can take up to two years), but looked healthy and grew over the summer. By late fall the tree peonies had disappeared, and only a small stick left in its place. I was worried I had somehow killed them, and was anxious to see if they would reappear in spring. Turns out there was no need to worry, as my tree peonies survived and have grown quite a bit from last year. They even had beautiful plate sized blooms!!

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The wisteria I was training across the fence had significantly more blooms compared to last summer. I’m going to continue to train the new growth across the fence, and fill in the gaps in the middle. It grows quite quickly, and I’m already looking forward to next spring’s results.

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The hydrangeas, azaleas, ferns and hostas came back bigger and better. Some of my shrubs that I didn’t even know flowered bloomed.

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The fertilizing and pruning last year paid off, as all six camellias look healthier and had more blooms then the previous year! They are also starting to fill in for a better shape overall.

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This fall was extremely dry, and my holly tree and mountain laurel shrub suffered a bit. The mountain laurel lost most of its leaves, but is slowly making a comeback. I was surprised that it bloomed in the spring.

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The large holly tree was not as lucky. All of the sharp little leaves fell off and have not grown back. Super fun to pick up! The branches are flexible, and there are little bits of growth so it’s not dead, but not coming back as quickly as I had hoped.

One thing I’ve learned about gardening is patience. Waiting a whole year for results was tough, but it was so gratifying to see all my hard work was not in vain. Considering I knew nothing about gardening, and have even killed bamboo plants, I’m pretty impressed with the progress of my garden.

The Outhouse Gets a Makeover

Yes, you read that correctly. The Outhouse is getting a makeover. Not my second floor bathroom, but…the Outhouse. If you’ve recently stumbled upon my blog, let me introduce you to the Outhouse. A random disgusting toilet in the basement, surrounded by an odd wooden (at one point blue) structure. It got its name because that is exactly what it looks like…an outhouse.

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I preferred to fix up the second floor bathroom before the Outhouse, but a half bath would be much cheaper, and I’m not as picky when it comes to this particular bathroom. Its a spare half bath in an unfinished basement.

Last year my parents remodeled their guest bathroom, and asked if I wanted their old vanity and sink. Free construction materials? Um…yes please! So I’ve had a sink sitting in my basement for the past year. Next, I came into some tile. You get the picture. Over time I hoarded enough materials to renovate the Outhouse at a minimal cost.

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The surrounding blue structure was torn down and the old toilet taken out. The 2×4 framing and drywall were put up, and electric and plumbing installed.

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The Outhouse renovation was coming along smoothly, and then I went out of town for a week. Why is this relevant? Well, Baltimore got a lot of rain while I was gone…and so did my basement. I was aware my basement had a moisture problem. The water usually isn’t that bad, and only comes in on one side of the basement. Over the past two years I’ve tried to fix the leak. I replaced the old gutters. The original outdoor plumbing was replaced. Dirt was brought in to fill in the space near the pipes. Nothing worked! Finally we came to the conclusion that I would have to install a sub-pump to fix it. Hmmm…spend several thousand dollars to install a basement sub-pump or dining room trim? Install a sub-pump or landscaping? Install sub-pump or put up a fence? It seemed there was always something else (and in my opinion, something better) to spend money on. So I put off installing a sub-pump.

Well, the joke’s on me because I wasn’t there to mop the water up it almost reached the Outhouse. There is no point finishing the half bath if it could get water damage down the road. Renovations are on hold until I put in a sub-pump, and this “cheap renovation” is now going to cost me a lot more. Lesson learned.

 

Kitchen Nook Reveal- Part II

The kitchen nook was like the rest of the kitchen…a disaster. The kitchen’s avocado green walls and wood paneling continued throughout the nook. The former owner decided to mix it up a bit with striped wallpaper and a green radiator.

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This picture was taken before the termite company ripped up the floors for treatment. There was a huge swarm under the floor, and you can actually see termite mud pushing up some of the laminate tile. By the time I closed on the property, the nook’s flooring was gone and a temporary piece of plywood was put in its place.

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The wood paneling was removed, and new drywall and flooring installed. I continued the white walls and porcelain gray tile into the nook. The lovely green radiator was painted white. Surprisingly, the sliding glass doors were in decent shape, and I decided to keep them for now. Eventually, I would like to replace them with French doors, but that’s low on my list of priorities at the moment.

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I loved the marble kitchen table. It was similar to the tables I saw in design magazines.

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Using it for inspiration, I decided to keep the table and fix it up myself. It was dull and had some scratches, but I was able to get most of the scratches out with a little light sanding. Next I gave it a good polish using car wax. I painted the wooden base black.

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The chairs left behind consisted of a wooden bench and mismatched vintage ice cream parlor chairs. I sold the chairs at my yard sale, and temporarily replaced them with metal chairs from a Pier One outdoor patio set I had. I was contemplating purchasing acrylic chairs, but didn’t see any I liked in my price range. Several months passed, and I decided I preferred the metal chairs to acrylic and kept them.

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I didn’t plan to keep the original light fixture. It was old fashioned and not at all what I was envisioning. Over time it grew on me. I can’t explain it. It’s old fashioned and weird, but I just like it. I painted the base black and switched out the light bulb for a large round one.

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I kept the slate piece on the radiator for my DIY planters and milk glass containers I found around the house. In the office filing cabinet, among the playbills and files full of joke clippings, I found the original advertisement for my neighborhood from the early 1920’s. I framed it and hung it in the nook.

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Since the kitchen nook overlooks the garden, I used a 1950’s flower guidebook for wall décor. The colorful pictures pop against the white walls, and a perfect transition to the view of the garden.

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I think the white and gray tones brighten up the space, and with ample views of the garden from the side window and sliding doors, I wasn’t concerned about the lack of color.

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I love to spend lazy Saturday mornings drinking my coffee watching cardinals, robins and butterflies enjoying the berries on my shrubs and flowers in the garden.

Key Lime Pie, Classic Cars and Six-Toed Cats

Last month I escaped the endless winter and took a trip to Key West Florida. The drive down the keys is absolutely beautiful. Stunning blue water, white beaches and large iguanas sunning themselves on the side of the road. There was still evidence of Hurricane Irma damage, mostly between Sugarloaf and Marathon. Abandoned RV’s were scattered about, the sides completely ripped away, and pieces of boats lay along the road.

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Luckily, Key West avoided the worst of the storm and was in good shape. We stayed just off of Duval Street near Mallory Square. I loved Key West’s atmosphere and laid back attitude. We rented bikes and spent the first day riding around and checking out the sights.

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I visited the Hemingway House, and was surprised that the entire place smelled like cats. Upon discovering that 52 cats lived there, I understood why. I also learned way too much about six-toed cats.

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The cool thing about the Hemingway House is that the patio and surrounding brick wall were from Baltimore! I spied several of these bricks around Key West.

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I also visited the Little White House and took a Conch Tour Train ride, which gave a really great overview of the architecture and history of Key West.

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Seventy miles off the coast of Key West is Fort Jefferson National Park. You can only get there by airplane or boat, and takes several hours. Around the time I was booking my trip I just finished a book about the assassination of Lincoln. I recalled that Fort Jefferson was mentioned as the prison several conspirators had been taken to. The most notorious prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd. I wasn’t sure if I would ever come back to Key West so I figured I’d take the day and visit Fort Jefferson.

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I enjoyed the park tour, and walking around the fort. It was pretty cool to stand at the top of the fort and see nothing but water all around you. It’s so incredibly quiet and still.

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Only five park rangers and the occasional camper live there. I enjoyed the peacefulness, which was a nice break from Duval Street, but I understand how it could be isolating.

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The fort is known for its snorkeling, but it was windy that day and visibility was poor, so I relaxed on the beach until the boat left. I thought this would be my only trip to Fort Jefferson, but camping there is now on my bucket list.

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After four days in Key West, I had my fill of key lime pie and tropical drinks. We hopped in the car and headed to West Palm Beach and the Barrett Jackson Classic Car Auction. I didn’t explore Palm Beach that much, but relaxed on the beach when I wasn’t at the car show.

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I loved driving around and admiring the flora of Key West and Palm Beach. It was inspiring and I was itching to start working in my own garden. By the time I got home, the weather had FINALLY started to warm up a bit. Let the planting begin!

Laundry Tub Installation

Several months ago, I scored an awesome (practically brand new) laundry tub with a faucet and hookup at a community flea market in Parkton for $15! The tub alone costs $110 at Home Depot. My current laundry tub was old and covered in paint, so I figured why not replace it?

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The new laundry tub is deeper, and doesn’t take up as much space. You can see where the legs of the original tub stood.

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Plus, its great having a new faucet with a pull down spray.

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I found this picture of the laundry corner the other day and thought I would share. The difference between the before and after makes me laugh…well that and the random crab pots in the corner. Project by project the basement is slowly coming along!

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Secret Garden Overhaul Part II

Last summer I took on the challenge of the overgrown garden. Check out my Secret Garden Part I post if you missed the before/after. By the time I got to the back portion of the garden it was August. It was hot and humid, and I was over landscaping and yard work. As much as I was dreading it, I could not leave it alone. The overgrown mess was such an eyesore, and I suspected it was the cause of my cat problem. The pictures are from mid March. It was so overgrown in the summer that it was hard to see the space. So imagine this, but ten times worse in August. Ugh!

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I decided to rip out the overgrowth, tidy up the area, and focus on planting shrubs the following year. Just removing the ground covering made a huge difference.

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Next, I took on the task of digging out rocks and the rest of the bricks. Rocks. There were so many rocks in the garden! Oh, and let’s not forget the occasional seashell of course.

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I dumped the rocks in my alley and posted a free notification online for my neighbors. Twenty minutes later, the rocks were gone. I did this FOUR times! Apparently, rocks are a hot commodity and I received several e-mails requesting more rocks. I’m happy they were put to good use, and more importantly that I didn’t have to haul them away!

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I laid down weed barrier fabric, and mulched the flowerbeds. I planted hostas in-between the three camellia bushes. I also planted ferns I had found growing among the ground covering at the end of the flowerbed.

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I put weed barrier fabric across the middle of the space and dumped over a ton of pebbles on top. This will help keep the ground covering from growing back. Yay, more rocks!

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A fence was installed for more privacy, and the wrought iron entrance gate removed. I used the entrance gate for decor since it matched the rest of the fencing scattered throughout the garden.

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Now that the majority of the work is complete, this spring I plan to rip out the Japanese laurels and plant hydrangeas all the way across the back. I’ve also purchased some astilbe bulbs to plant in the empty spaces and between the trees.

I’m happy to report all of my fertilizing and pruning last year paid off. My neglected camellias have more buds then ever! I can’t wait to see how they look come spring!