Pardon Our Dust

our dated dream house

Author: lisamaceda

Bush League

NOTHING has excited me more about this house (with the exception of getting the keys on closing day) than coming home to to the front facade relieved of the oppressive bushes that have been choking out the porch for the past few decades. I’m sure we have some neighbors who are up in arms over chopping them down and pulverizing them in a giant wood chipper, but they were so overgrown, there was no way to save them. I also hate giant evergreen bushes…so there. Anyway, let’s just get to the before & after.

 

Let’s start off slow, from the living room.

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Front view – Notice Mike for scale in the after photo- the smaller of the bushes were about as tall as he is.

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Look how much yard we gained! Anyone need some sad hostas?

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Yay! Time for more landscaping!

Chloe Goes on an Adventure

Each and every morning, our little dog Picasso wakes us up by climbing on our faces and demanding to go outside and then fed his breakfast. He doesn’t care if I had a work trip the day before and am really tired, or how many glasses of wine I had the night before, or that it’s a damn Saturday.

“I’m going to jump on your face until you let me out so I can pee on your ferns and flowers, then I want to eat, and after that I will be tired and want to go back to bed”

Today was no different except Mike noticed our cat Chloe wasn’t hanging around as she usually is as we shuffle through this early morning routine. We combed the house, looked under every bed and in every corner…..nothing. The weather was pretty nice last night so maybe we left the door open when we let the dogs out for the last time and she somehow slipped out and out of sight before we noticed? Unlikely since she will venture out from time to time, but stays within about 6″ of the door and runs back in as soon as we notice her. We had exhausted all our interior options though, so at about 4:45 AM, we ventured out with flashlight in search of that glowing pair of yellow eyes. A bit later I located a mound of black fur wedged under our side porch’s stairs. Yay! We found her. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to her so I had to kick in the lattice under the porch which scared her and she ran under the back deck. I crawled in there, on my hands and knees, through god-knows-what, and that little shit somehow fit herself under the deck which is sitting on the ground. I had to army crawl under those stairs where I could see her, but couldn’t really reach her. This is also when I noticed she had disturbed an ant hill and there were little pissy red ants all over the place. We tried begging, I tried pulling her towards me with a stick, we considered just leaving her there and hoping she would come out on her own, but ended up deciding we were not going back inside without her. With my cheek on the dirt, I managed to get my arm into the small space and grab her tail, but that really pissed her off and she hissed and cried and got deeper into the space under the deck.

At this point I was so exasperated, I didn’t really care what happened to her, but I don’t need a dead cat under the deck so we did this:IMG_0352

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Because everyone dreams of starting their weekend with dismantling their deck so they can drag an angry cat out, covered in ants and leaves.

The best part, and most comical now that this ordeal is over, is we had the dogs out with us because they wouldn’t stop barking, and our resident possum, Cropsey, who splits his time between our yard and the neighbors, moseyed on over to see what all the action was about. Mike thought it was Picasso at first until an insane commotion of barking and chasing ensued. That thing was so shocked he couldn’t just walk in and check out what we were doing. So at 5 am this morning, I was in our back yard,  covered in dirt and leaves, and screaming at a possum who couldn’t even be bother to move at a pace faster than a relaxed walk to get out our yard.

Maniacs

Buying an old house is like gleefully signing up for manic depression. There’s so much good….and an equal amount of bad. For every beautiful piece of original hardware, there is a run of brittle, crumbling cloth wire lurking in your walls and for every gorgeous turned spindle on your front porch, there is a rotting deck board reminding you every day when you leave the house to go to the job that pays to fix that place up, that it needs to be replaced before the mail carrier falls through and retires shortly after in the Bahamas.

When neighbors stop by to tell us they have always loved our house and have lived in the area for 50 years – that they are so glad to see someone thing care of it and fixing it up – it makes us happy. BUT, when I buy all new really awesome push button light switches for the first floor only to find out we have some (thankfully not all) cloth wiring that is probably original to the house and we should probably not touch lest it disintegrate and teach our insurance company a lesson, it makes us sad. Our electrician told us to make sure we have smoke detectors and to listen for noises in the wall that would suggest something is about to burn this m-fer to the ground (not in those words). Here you go, take all my money.

House, you’re expensive.

(Update: the electrician was back this past weekend to install our incredibly cute barn light fixture above the garage and some outlets for the basement and said a lot of work has been done over the years and the electrical is actually probably in a pretty good place for the age of the house.)

That would be an example of good. An example of bad would be spending 2 hours taking apart one of the old windows to fix the broken sash cord only to realize the weights don’t fit through the pockets and the whole window has to be disassembled. I want to take another look at it since I thought I broke my finger that day and it could have clouded my judgement. According to the city, our windows must be fixed so they don’t decapitate anyone, to be continued.

We turn to retail therapy when the going gets rough in the house…IMG_0260

Mike and I share a love of plants which is a little dangerous, but if I get to look at these instead of all the shit that needs fixing/cleaning/replacing/trashing/painting/maintaining, it helps.

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…because who cares if our back yard is a compacted mass of bare earth and the front bushes are about the swallow the house when you have a HEAD planter!

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Other than our plant shopping spree(s), not much has changed. We finally put up a light fixture in the living room from the old house, but I almost hate to post a photo because I haven’t been able to take down the tulip wallpaper border, fix the peeling paint, put art on the walls, raise the curtains, etc….etc…

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Chloe is unimpressed, as usual.

Hopefully more to come.

April Showers

Mike and I spent most of April doing our anti-rain dance so we could drop a boatload of money on a stupid new roof.  Apparently our insurance company wasn’t super excited about the curling shingles and moss growing on it and threatened to cancel our policy if we didn’t do something about it. It’s hard to argue with them – after every windy day, our gigantic bushes were littered with little pieces of pink shingles that had shaken free. While we were at it, we got all new gutters since they, much like our yard, were full of about 5 years worth of leaves, sticks and little saplings.

Two days before the deadline the insurance company gave us to have everything fixed, I shot some hurried photos to prove we are now broke. These are not very exciting…but at least the roof isn’t pink anymore.

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My god those bushes – really there would be a person in there for scale, they are like 6′ high. It’s madness.

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Good news is we still have insurance, and the virtually nonstop rain lately has been skillfully diverted by our new gutters.

I’m embarrassed to show much else. We have ordered so much crap and been to home improvement stores an average of 3 times a week – yet nothing seems to get done around here. It took a RIDICULOUSLY long time to fix a leaking faucet, two hours to put up new door entry hardware (only to realize it’s crooked which makes me want to scream), and we installed all new smoke detectors…which seemed important considering the house didn’t come with any. I have also put up no less than 25 window treatments so no one can see inside to the cracked walls and crooked cabinet doors we live with. We then spent three hours stapling mesh to the fence one day in a futile effort to contain the dogs, only to write a check for a whole new fence a couple weeks later. None of this is very satisfying. Not a single room is anywhere near finished, and no one is allowed to come over unless they are fixing or installing something and wants all our money.

During the monsoon last weekend we finished painting the family room. I don’t especially enjoy painting, but I shelled out some extra money to get that Behr Marquee paint that has a one coat guarantee, and it’s worth every penny not to have to apply multiple coats.

I just hung up my favorite piece of art, painted by my late Aunt Helen who was an amazing artist and got the chills. In our last house, it was in our dining room and the light would hit it for a few minutes each day in a really beautiful way. The same thing happened tonight and it reminded me of my dad telling us about the last time he saw her. She was in a nursing home with my Uncle and my dad went for a visit. Neither had been in good health for quite some time, but when he walked up to her, she was sitting near a window, hair fixed, makeup done, reading a book and bathed in light.

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Thoughts on a 30 Year Old Kitchen

Every time I use our kitchen, I am mostly horrified because no matter how much we clean, everything is just a little sticky, almost every run of vanilla-colored Corian countertop is cracked, and none of the cabinets align. The faucet leaks despite two replacement parts, and the oven has it’s own idea of temperature. But sometimes, as I stand there in hum of the rather large undercabinet lights (all different color temperatures, of course) I realize this kitchen was probably pretty badass and way ahead of its time in the 80’s.

 

Exhibit A – The infamous luminous ceiling. I realize this ceiling came to be because they had to conceal the air conditioning ducts coming from the attic down to the first floor, but I bet people were pretty impressed with this at the first family party post-reno. Don’t overlook the brass grid…it’s pretty high end. That ceiling has gotta go.

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Exhibit B – We have 2 pullout drawers for pots and pans. Eat your heart out IKEA

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Exhibit C – this amazing double oven. Who cares if it doesn’t have any idea what temperature it wants to be! There’s two of them! (let’s not judge on the box o’ wine, we need it okay?)

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Exhibit D – a 36” professional-ish gas cooktop. The flames on this thing are about 12” tall on full blast, and all the identification is worn off so we never know which on we are turning on.

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Does anyone else have a cooktop like this with drawers under it? I’m scared to put anything in those drawers.

I think the most interesting thing about this kitchen is that my mom has one very similar from the same time but it doesn’t look nearly as dated because it’s white. I wouldn’t ever be so bold to think the kitchen we end up putting in this house won’t be publicly shamed on the internet in 30 years, but it goes to show you that some colors/materials/designs are quite a more timeless than others.

 

That CEILING tho…..woof

Oh Happy Day

This is the day I have been waiting for. After a complete renovation of a bungalow in Oak Park and almost over a year living in our Berwyn house with renters, we have paid our dues and it’s time for our very own house. We have been passively and actively looking around for months – had two houses under contract only to end up walking away because of issues, but this time, it all finally fell into place.

 

About two years ago when I was trying to find some history on Berwyn and its Victorians, I spotted this photo on Pinterest:

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Pink! Sadly, the bushes have only increased their chokehold on the porch

It’s like a little architectural cupcake. I wasn’t so much a fan of the color, but fell in love with the details. I immediately started virtually exploring the streets of South Berwyn via Google Maps to find out where it was. I couldn’t find it. Fast forward a few months later when we bought our current house and we come to find out it’s on the same street. It didn’t really matter, it wasn’t for sale. I used to make Mike drive and walk by it all the time – even if it was out of the way. One day, we noticed they were having an estate sale and I forced Mike to turn the car around and let me go. I had to see what was inside and find out if this meant they would be selling the house. The owners were relocating to Florida and the house would soon be on the market for a price I almost had to sit down for. It was about 20k more than the most expensive house sale in Berwyn. That house was almost fully renovated….this one needs some major love. I proceeded to spend the remainder of the day in a shitty mood. It sat on the market for a few months because who would be crazy enough to take on a huge project like this kitchen (which is only the tip of the iceberg, this house needs work in every single room)?

 

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The Kitchen…at least it’s spacious?

As of yesterday, it’s ours. I could barely talk about it for a month because I thought it was too good to be true, but yesterday we signed some papers, and got the keys. Anyone who knows the house inevitably asks what our first project will be. Unfortunately it’s the roof which will likely cost more than our car. I wish it was a new kitchen, or a fresh exterior paint job – proper for the painted lady it is. It’s actually not pink anymore, it’s white and some sort of dusty mauve color which, go figure, I am not a fan of.

We will be busy on this one for a long time to come and hope you’ll come along for the ride!

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