Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chambers Stove Love

I love the look of vintage appliances - and I've always been sad that I couldn't reasonably keep using my vintage refrigerator in my kitchen.  I don't even remember what started my Chambers obsession last year.  But I decided I wanted one and I wanted one BAD.

Late last winter, and I had just gotten a bonus from work. I was going to use it to pay for a restored stove, but then had to use most of that money to pay for taxes.  Boo.  But every time I looked at information on the stoves, I kept thinking, that looks so uncomplicated - I could totally do it.  And what I couldn't do, my hotrodding husband could help me do.  A stove is WAY less complicated than a car.

So we purchased this one off Craigslist:

but it wasn't quite the one I wanted - I had to have a Chrome top (this one was a black porcelain)

and I wasn't thrilled with the low back.

And the griddle was a piece of work (apparently according to the previous owner, the woman he got it from was a bit of a drunk, and would forget when her stove was on)

But the stove itself was in pretty good condition.

So I stewed about it a bit and kept checking Craigslist & eBay.

Then Jim found another one on Craigslist.  It was super cheap ($50), but didn't include a picture.  We found out it was a "Silverlight B" with a high back and went over to swipe it up that day.

This is what a restored Silverlight B looks like:

Ironically, as a side note, we had spent the day watching the marathon as it runs a block away from our house, and it was while we were driving to pick up the stove that we found out about the marathon bombings.  That is why I distinctly remember this stove was purchased in April.

For some reason, I failed to take any pictures of this purchase until I started taking it apart.  Could have been the marathon bombing craziness.

But this stove had everything I wanted in a Silverlight B -
-Chrome top
-high back
-Chrome top
-Chrome top
Did I mention Chrome Top?

The stove even had the highly sought after red cloisonne knobs (just like the ones in the picture above), which in and of themselves were worth the $50.  This stove was a little more rusty and beat up, but we should be able to combine the two to make one good one.

Most of the pictures I have of the stove are ones that I took while taking it apart so that I would remember how to put it together again.  And those are thrilling.

At this point, all of one stove and most of the other stove has been taken apart.  I've cleaned up most of the 60 years of grease, the chrome parts have been replated (oh, it is pretty), the burners and gas valves have been all shined up, and I'm in process of repainting the body and reassembling the burner knob mechanism with all new stainless steel springs and screws.

I've been working on this at a snails pace.  I am definitely as slow as molasses.  I actually planned to work on it over Christmas break, but it's been below 10 degrees and the garage isn't heated, so forget it.

Here's the pretty chrome top:

And here's the valve to the thermowell cooker - all shiny with the thermowell body and the bracket all cleaned up and painted.

And here's the painted bottom of the stove.  I'm planning to replace those carriage-type screws with some chrome metal feet.  Unless it looks ridiculous, and then I'll just put new carriage screws on it.

Here's the knob mechanism cleaned up, painted, and with the replacement springs

And here's a photo collage of some of the chromed and painted parts.  It's looking pretty good.

Some people think I'm absolutely out of my mind.  But I love it.  And this is about what I imagine the end product looking like in my new kitchen:

But I have a lot of work to go - finish painting the body, reassemble all the mechanisms and gas lines, re-insulate the oven door, shine up the replacement griddle and broiler pan, clean up all the porcelain and send out some of the parts to get a new coat of porcelain.   Probably some other things.  Man, am I slow at it, but it's moving forward and will definitely be pretty in the new yet-to-be-started kitchen.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Search for Floors that can take a Beating

One of the first things I started thinking about with a remodel for accessibility was the flooring.  This is what our kitchen floor looked like around 9 years ago when the kitchen floor was first installed:

And this is what they look like today.

Nice, huh?  It's pretty sad really.

(Oscar's launch pad to his food bowl)

Abbey's spot when she comes in wet from the rain or snow and lays down (can you see her outline?)

What?  I can't help it if my fur holds a lot of water!

But 2 big dogs and a kid in a wheelchair plus parents who can't seem to remember that wood floors need to be screened and re-polyed every...  how many years is it??  Plus, I'm not entirely sure how reliable the guys were that installed them - sort of cheap, fly by the night with probably-not-legal workers - there's plenty of other low quality things about how they laid the floor.  Anyway, we only put down some more poly about a year ago wtihOUT screening, and by that time, it was definitely too late.

So what kind of floor would be durable enough for us?  I'm in love with the look of hardwoods - and nothing else seems to fit with this little folk Victorian house.  But in a search for durability, I've debated all sorts of floors.

First it was laminate - I found out that you could buy commercial grade laminate, with super high durability - And if that stuff can withstand mall traffic, surely it would be ok.  But then one excited Oscar (and he's always excited) would scratch right through it as he pounced for food putting all his weight into his doggy claw tips.  Or perhaps a little piece of gravel or glass shard gets stuck in the wheelchair wheel.  Then it would be obvious it was laminate and have ugly scratches in it.

Then I thought pre-finished hardwood would be the way to go - with an aluminum oxide UV coating.  That must be strong, right?  And it would be true to the house.  But then I couldn't stop being worried about the scratches on that too.

Then I thought pre-finished and pre-distressed floors would camouflage the crazy scratching.  Ugh - but then the floors would always look kinda worn or "rustic", and I'm not sure I like that.  Plus one of Jim's friends that's in the industry told us the floor companies love that product because they can use up all their crappy wood and sell it at a premium by calling it "distressed"

Then I found out about bamboo strand flooring.  It's a technique where they divide the bamboo into thin fibers and then glue it back together.  But then your floor is really just glue encapsulating the fibers.  And supposedly some of the bamboo floor glues have nasty stuff in them.

Then I thought maybe engineered hardwood would be good because you could just swap out the high traffic floors every few years.

In all this searching, I started coming across wood-look tile.  The first ones in the home centers that I saw were pretty interesting, but still looked pretty fake.  And I said to myself, in 10 years, everyone is going to be saying, what were we thinking with the fake wood?  But I continued looking into it.

While looking for inspiration on how to incorporate the giant farmhouse utility sink in our basement in a new kitchen, I came across this blog with a kitchen renovation.  I pinned it in Pinterest and then learned months later googling wood look tile that the floor was actually tile.  She talks about them here, here, and here.

It was pretty impressive, and I thought it would be the perfect solution - especially if we installed radiant heat in the floors - we have it in our bathroom, and I absolutely love it.  Then I told Jim and he considered it, but wasn't quite sold on the idea.  I told a contractor friend and a few other people, and everyone poo-poo-ed me and said to just get real wood.  OK, I thought.  Fine.  I'll continue searching for something that will be durable enough to withstand a 75 pound hyperactive dog balancing on 8 little claw tips just waiting to be released to eat his food.

Who me?

But I couldn't stop thinking about the tile option.  I brought it up with Jim again a couple of weeks ago - "I can't help thinking that the wood look tile would be the best for us - I want hardwood, but I just don't see how it would be practical"  He agreed and said he had been thinking the same thing.

So last week I stopped into a local tile store to take a look at their options.  They had a huge variety.  I selected a few oak look ones (I just like the lighter wood better) and took them home.

The one I like the best is called "Danae" Arborea - it had a lot of surface texture and variety, came in a 4" plank, which looks a lot more traditional than the 6" wide hardwood planks that seem to be popular right now, AND it was the more reasonably priced option.

Here's a marketing picture from BluStyle, the makers of the tile:

And this guy in Florida (where wood look tiles seem to be popular) blogged about an installation they did with this same tile here.

Jim looked more into the radiant floor heat option, decided he thought it would work, work well, and be relatively easy to install.  He even bought a high efficiency boiler off of Craigslist.  So that was my cue - we were off to return to the tile store, and over the weekend we laid down a deposit for 800 sqft of Danae Arborea tile.  Now we just have to finish the architectural plans and get the work started. Oh, and pay for construction. All of which will likely take quite a bit more time than my obsessive analysis paralysis.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

First Drafts of the New Floorplan

Back in October we got some first round floor plans from Michael Gelb.  Here is the first floor:

You'll notice first the front of the house stays as it currently exists.
Then you walk back into the kitchen/dining.  These plans also have only a half wall between the kitchen and the front living area.

Then you walk back into an area I will call the "back foyer".  Here on the left is a door out to the driveway.  And on the right is the elevator.

From there, you can either go down an interior ramp on the left, or head down a short, wide hallway to an accessible 1/2 bath on the right, and a play/therapy room at the end of the hallway.

If you go down the interior ramp, you end up in a mudroom with cubbies, storage, and a dog worthy shower.  The stairs to the basement are also located in the mudroom, as well as a door directly into the garage.

And here is the second floor:

On the second floor, the front bedroom (currently our master bedroom) stays the same, and Morty's current bedroom stays the same.  However, that's about all that's the same.

Where the bathroom is becomes a hallway that goes back and then turns to the right.  From there you can go through a door into the accessible "Morty bath" or make a left to go down the hallway with the elevator on the right.

If you continue through the door at the end of that hallway, you enter into the new master suite.  There on the left is a walk-in closet, and on the right is the master bath (notice this is the new home for our existing clawfoot tub)

Then past the bath and closet is the master bedroom.  At the back of the bedroom is a french door that leads out onto a deck.

We have a bunch of changes that we want to make to this plan including the following layout items:
- Kitchen - needs more room between the island and cabinets for accessibility - willing to take out the 1/2 wall and rearrange the island
- Kitchen - include an area with an open lowered counter, so that Morty has his own kitchen prep space.
- Kitchen - pantry can be moved to the understair hutch location (this is currently a poorly built hutch)
- Playroom - close off the back wall to meet with the front of the closet.  Then there is space for a stackable washer & dryer in the mudroom
- Morty's Bath - the shower is too small and needs to be bigger to accommodate a bath chair and a care attendant

We met with Michael and went over some of these things.  He has been working on round 2 draft, entering it into a CAD program, and doing elevations.  We also had to get a plot plan re-done to add in the garage (we had plans made before the garage was built, but didn't have the garage in there at the time, obviously)

Meanwhile, Jim and I have begun a lot of thought on more of the details.  Jim researches heating options and scours Craiglist to find windows and boilers.  I obsess over things like flooring and tile and other finishes.  More detail on these things to come...

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I've been trolling on Pinterest and thumbing through This Old House magazines that are piled up in our house, trying to find an ideal kitchen layout to fit our house.  The original plan that Michael Gelb drew up had the new kitchen in the new addition at the back of the house (same spot as the existing kitchen).

However, as I'm pretty sure I mentioned, we're thinking about moving the location to get more use out of our existing square footage (i.e. the dining room that is essentially a really big hallway from the family room to the kitchen)  Well, I think I found a perfect layout:

If you take out the wall between the sewing room and the dining room, the dimensions are just about the same.  Doorways are in a slightly different location, but if you flip it, it's essentially the same...  the kitchen would be in the existing sewing room and the eating nook would be in the existing dining room.  And the "to new family room" would be to the existing family room.

Of course, we'd have to get rid of the chimney.  But we don't have a real fireplace anyway... and the oil burner could be vented a different way.

Here's a couple other pictures:

Drool, drool, drool.  Excuse me while I wipe the drool off of my chin.

Here's the link to the gallery on This Old House.

Now, we're not sure exactly what we would do with the space between this and the mudroom, but there's got to be an elevator in there somewhere, and maybe it's a "Morty Suite" with a bedroom and big accessible bath... or maybe since there's an elevator, the Morty Suite can just be located upstairs and the downstairs is a therapy room/equipment garage and bathroom??  Maybe part of it is a hallway that is a big ramp from the mudroom to the existing house?  (there's about a 2-3 step difference in the design from the house to the garage - was supposed to be a step down to the kitchen and 2? steps down to the mudroom)  Still debating this one.  Anyway, we meet with Michael Gelb this weekend to go over our needed changes to the design.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thinking About What's Next

We've been thinking a lot lately about what we want to do with the house.  We had some plans done up by MGZ when we built the garage - a "Phase 2" where we connected the house to the garage, added a mudroom, rebuilt the kitchen, and added a master suite above it.  We loved the design and have been working at paying down the mortgage so that we can start our project (a 5 to 10 year plan).

However, things have changed significantly in the past 3 years.  As it turned out, our son has cerebral palsy - which, if you're not familiar with CP, basically is a non degenerative condition where his brain has difficulty sending messages to his muscles.  The effects of CP can be on a broad spectrum, from mildly affected, where you might not even be able to tell, to severely affected, where the person has very little control of any muscles and must be assisted in a wheelchair.  Our son falls somewhere in that spectrum closer to the severely affected.  He is 3 and cannot independently walk.  He does use a gait trainer (a walker for young children) for short periods of time, and has started to learn how to use a power chair at his new preschool, where they specialize in children with physical disabilities.

So where does this put us?  Well, the design is now impractical for our situation.  Most of the house now as it exists, is impractical for the situation.  All the charm of a folk Victorian, with it's chopped up floorplan with doorway divided rooms (all with thresholds), multi stories, and narrow hallways just creates barrier after barrier for our son.  We've lived with it so far, mostly carrying him from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor and back again, and wheeling him around the house ourselves, bumping into (and dinging up) all the door casings.  And that's not even getting into how all the spare space in the house stores one piece of durable medical equipment or another (2 different chair/strollers, a gait trainer, a stander, various tri-wall cardboard seating & table setups)

But... we can't imagine moving.  We've invested so much time in this house.  And we love so many of our neighbors and friends here.  And we're walking distance to all the things that our little town center offers, from the library to summer concerts on the Common.  And we're halfway between Jim's work and my work.  And there's a whole complicated school situation with our son that we have just recently settled, and a new town would mean going through that process all over again.  And of course, the brand new garage.

So our little Plain Jane will have to change.  It needs to be opened up.  It needs to have a smooth floors with no transitions between rooms.  It needs an accessible bathroom.  And yes, I want a residential elevator.  I've started looking around and trying to find ideas.  "Universal Design" really appeals to me.  I don't want our house to look medical, but I want it accessible.

Here's some things from AARP and NAHB that help explain what it means to have a Universal Design

  • No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home's main rooms.
  • One-story living. Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.
  • Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.
  • Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.
  • Extra floor space. Everyone feel less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.
  • Reachable controls and switches: Anyone — even a person in a wheelchair — can reach light switches that are from 42-48 inches above the floor, thermostats no higher than 48 inches off the floor, andelectrical outlets 18-24 inches off the floor.
  • Easy-to-use handles and switches: Lever-style door handles andfaucets, and rocker light switches, make opening doors, turning on water, and lighting a room easier for people of every age and ability.
  • Low or no-threshold stall showers with built-in benches or seats
  • Non-slip floors, bathtubs, and showers 
  • Raised, comfort-level toilets 
  • covered entryway to protect you and your visitors from rain and snow
The list could go on, but that's the idea.  With the aging baby boom population, it's often also called "Age In Place" design.

How do we translate this to our house?  I'm not entirely sure yet, but I'm searching for ideas, we have MGZ coming over in a couple months to review our current needs, and we have a contact for a friend of a friend that will give us a tour of their home that was recently remodeled for their son in a wheelchair.

Here's an architect that specializes in Universal Design.  He set out to show that a 2 story urban house could be universal, and that this design is not destined only for a sprawling ranch.

And here's a home plan that is designed to be accessible.  It's a lot bigger than our house, but I feel like some of this design could be applied to our house's layout.  If you just look at the left side of the house, it's not *too* much different than ours (if you busted out all our walls)

Anyway, those are my first thoughts.  I'll add more of my current ideas later...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Never-Ending Paint Project

Back for my yearly+ update.  Seriously, I should keep this at least a little more updated.  Oh well, so much to do, so little time these days.

While I occupied our 2 1/2 year old this summer, Jim worked quite a bit on the front of the house, and his dad came over to help as well.  Lots of scraping and sanding and painting.  The trimwork had super thick layers of paint on it - all in horrible condition.

Jim, multitasking while working on the 2nd floor bay window.  Look at how nice and smooth all that paint looks.

 I love how the paint looks.  And I love that we don't look like the crazy neighbors that can't finish what they started!

And here was my futile little project - the dog beds.  I used up 2 days of vacation to make these boxes with casters on the bottoms (designed to have them roll under the bed when not in use).  I bought shredded foam beds from here and then made zippered pillow cases out of bonded leather from Fabric Place Basement.  I was so excited about them.  The dogs, on the other hand, didn't want anything to do with them.  The wheels freaked Abbey out, and even when I put rubber cups on the casters, the damage was already done.  And Oscar occasionally laid on them, but mostly only when I put him there.  I even tossed the old ratty disgusting beds.  Pretty much useless.  Oh well.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Back to Painting

We've been working on painting the outside of the house now for several years.  See this post from 2008, and that was even a year or two into the painting. When I first started, I did these color swatches on the back of the house to see what color I liked best. 

We noticed that those swatches are still holding up fairly well, even though there was no prep work done on them at all and the condition of the clapboards was/is pretty horrendous.

Combine that with the fact that we have a 5 - 10 year plan to redo the back of the house - meaning that I don't want to put a whole lot of work into something that's going to be torn down.  So we decided to just do a quick scrape of the loose stuff and paint right over it.  Only missing or totally broken boards were replaced.  Windows & trim were ignored for now.  I certainly didn't bring out the Paint Shaver Pro or the IR heater!

Time is still very limited, so with my snail's pace, I did one wall of the bumpout-bumpout a couple weeks ago, and I did another wall yesterday.

Good enough, I say.  In the past I've talked with my father - he says that I have the ability to know when something is good enough.  His brother still hasn't put siding on his house 25 years later because he can't get something perfect - whatever that "something" is.  Well, it may take me 10 years to finish painting the house, but the back will only be good enough to not annoy the neighbors before it gets torn down.

In other house news, we also got a couple of sections of fence put up.  The fence is mostly functional - so that our 2 big 70 lb doodle dogs can run around while we're out there doing things.  Our next door neighbor, Joyce, took the chain link fence between our front yards down, and we put that one in the back, where all the weird hobbled together chicken wire fencing was.  Then she had her contractor put up a cedar picket for the back half,

and we used him to put up a vinyl picket (we didn't need something ELSE to paint) with a gate going across our driveway,

and a couple of sections in the back that are visible from the front.
We wish we could have had the whole yard done, but we did what we could with our current budget.

You might have noticed in that picture with the gate, that the front of the garage is painted now.  If you have good eyes, you also might have seen that the lights I was drooling over in a previous post are now up!  Those were a gift from Jim.  I love them every time I see them.

And here's a picture of the house as it is now.  Still work to do on the 2nd floor bay and the gables....  Aside from the garage being painted and the fence up, it doesn't look a whole lot different from last year.  But the rose bush is going crazy and looking great again!