Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Progress in the Foyer

One of the first things we did after taking possession of the house was run around and strip as much wallpaper off the walls as possible.  It came off in big sheets and was quite a lot of fun.  Once the wallpaper frenzy was over, however, we had to figure out what to tackle first.  We decided on the entryway.

In retrospect, it was possibly not the best idea to pick the most visible place in the house for the first project.  But it was a great learning experience, and so far it's turned out ok.  This is how it looked before the stripping madness:
Not bad, you think?  You had to see it close up, with its sea grass wallpaper and crumbling plaster.  With Billy the painter's help, Janet got to work on the long series of steps necessary to get it ready for painting:
Wash off the old glue
Patch the plaster
Fix this corner (Billy did it)
Skim coat
Strip the door (this was abandoned - not worth it)

Eventually it was ready for painting, which was actually the easiest part of the whole process (not to say that it was easy...).  The hardest part is skim coating, in my opinion.

1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint
And finally, except for one small area that will need a second coat of finish paint, the foyer wall painting is done.  We still need to repaint the doors and trim, and we need to add back the wainscoting, so we're a long way from being altogether finished.

It probably took at least twice as long as it would have a professional painter, but we're pleased with the end result and the flaws are probably only noticeable to us (we hope).

And we couldn't have done it without our faithful helper:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Catch up!

I'm so far behind on this blog and we've made so much progress!!  Fortunately, we've taken lots of pictures.  Of course, still so much to do, but given that we've only been able to work about a week a month, we've done pretty well.

Best of all, the exterior painting is done!

From across Elm St.

Front porch

Painted detail

East porch

East side

West side
We LOVE the way it's turned out.  It just needs some new landscaping to soften the impact from the street a bit, but we think it's just beautiful.  I am happy to give Billy Hernon of Williams Decorating a big shout out - what a magnificent job he and his team did.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Things to Take

For our next trip to Oberlin we want to bring the following:
  • tennis raquets
  • bird feeders
  • skates
  • full sack of dog food
  • more firewood
  • spotlights
  • cd/record player
  • wine 
  • round-up sprayer

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Our Yellow Truck

Are we crazy or what?  We went to CarMax yesterday and picked up a bright - and I do mean bright - yellow Ford Ranger pick up.  2003, 59K miles, great shape.  Manual transmission (I insisted on this)!  It's going to be our version of a moving van over the next several months as we gradually migrate to Oberlin.  We have a solution for moving the chickens now!  Then it'll be useful in all kinds of ways, especially once we have our farm.  And won't the grandkids love to ride in the back (yes, we will let them do that).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Front yard and foyer

It is nearly the end of a short, 3-day visit to Oberlin.  The main purpose of the trip was the (second) conditional use permit hearing with the planning commission.  Happily, despite a minority of our neighbors' best efforts, the permit was approved unanimously.

Dominique and I agreed that the first priority was to continue the foyer project.  We had already stripped most of the wallpaper off in a frenzy of "I can't stand this old wallpaper and especially this sea grass!" and were left with a lot of brown adhesive - and most of the sea grass.  However, I decided that in the interest of good neighbor relations, I should do something about the front yard.  The grassy area looked ok, but the small left section, where a large tree had previously grown, was overgrown and ugly, with lots of green/brown sprouts from the trunk and ton of reddish bushes.  Not to mention gigantic dandelions and other weeds.

So I - with Mom's help and tools - spent most of Wednesday and at least half of Thursday on cleaning up that area, plus I attempted to mow the lawn but that was a wasted effort because the grass really wasn't long enough.  At the end, the front section didn't look good, exactly, because there were lots of bare dirt areas, but it looked better.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a "before" picture but I think we have some in the file at home so I'll post later.  We'll see if it's an improvement or not.

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, I picked up the foyer project.  I had brought a Roundup sprayer to spray an adhesive-removing solution on the walls.  (DIF is what is generally recommended.  We had some in the basement, but we also had some other stuff so for no particular reason I decided to use it instead.)  The concentrate is supposed to be mixed with warm water and we haven't turned on the gas yet, so I had to microwave several water bottles full of water.  Mom had given me some drop cloths.  At first I tried to be very careful with the spray and tried to tape the cloths on the wall to protect the wood moldings, but I couldn't get them to stay on at and it didn't appear that the solution was hurting the wood finish at all.  Nor did it seem to hurt my eyes as the spray ricocheted off the wall and all over my face.

Scraping off the adhesive was surprisingly easy, although I decided that I need to remove the middle wood molding (I'm sure there's a technical term for this but I don't know what it is) in order to get all the wallpaper and adhesive off.  I used a fireplace tool as a crowbar to pry it off, after loosening it with the scraper.  I spent most of Friday working on the foyer although I had to quit a bit earlier than I would have liked so that the News Tribune could take another picture of me for an article that I'm pretty sure will never appear in the paper.  (Why are they doing an article on our B&B?  There's no story...)

When I was done I realized that I missed one little area above the door - rats, I'll have to catch it next time.  I started sanding the areas I had scraped on Thursday, but I quickly realized that you really have to let the walls dry well before starting that, otherwise adhesive gets on your sander.  Seems quite obvious once you've done it wrong.  So I was a little limited in how much sanding I could do.

It's not a bad task and goes fairly quickly but there are lots of distractions with Sunny, guests, and the media all taking up little bits of time.  That said, it would probably drive me crazy to do it nonstop for hours on end with no distractions.  It feels good to have launched this project.

This is the area above the fireplace mantel.  To the left, the adhesive has been scraped away.  Gee, I've already forgotten how bad it looked with all that brown stuff all over the walls.

Thursday was Bastille Day so I hung our French flag.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I'm the Buckeye - Ohio-raised girl heading back home after living virtually all her adult life in California with stints in Paris, Atlanta, and other odd corners of the world.  Dominique is the Frog - born and bred in Paris, France, now a dual French-American citizen.

We've just bought an 1880, 3-story brick house in Oberlin, Ohio, home of Oberlin College, about 30 miles northwest of Cleveland.  It's a real beauty, and we want to turn it into a bed & breakfast one day.  In the meantime, it needs a lot of work.

This blog, then, is the story of our attempt to restore this Victorian lady to her former glory.  Happily, much work was done before we arrived, and the woodwork, the fireplaces, the hardware are just glorious.  But there's a fair amount of water damage to the floors, it badly needs paint, and it has a fascinating but challenging 50's-era kitchen that's going to take some thought.  Among other things.