Archives For -Victorian

Tower Design Part 1

March 12, 2013 — 4 Comments

thirdfloor tower2

We had some amazing spring time weather over the weekend! Actual sustained blue skies, without the winter winds! We managed to open the windows in the third floor to try and air out from the sprayfoam. We also started planning for work in the tower. I’m not sure if this should really be the first priority, but it is definitely the most interesting. One of the reasons we bought the house was because it had a tower, but it has been totally unusable (at least until now). Isn’t that how all rational people choose their houses?

For years I have be imaging the space with a second story fort (even before kids) so that you could actually see out the windows. We also thought it would be really cool to clad the inside with half round cedar shingles (imagine the tower being inside out) and a beadboard ceiling to hide the new giant hole. But beyond that, it has always been a long away fantasy. Well now we are actually working on making it happen! Part of the rational is that we need to have the windows worked on, and wouldn’t it be easier to do that if there was platform up there to access them? And well why we are at, should we go ahead and put some closet space below (which will come in handy when we are working on the master bedroom and have to give up our closets temporarily). Besides the kids keep asking when their fort is going to be finished.

The Game Plan

Over the weekend Mr. S. got out the blue tape and started marking closet locations on the floor.  The room is 7′-2″x7′-1″,  far from spacious. How can we retain the interesting double height space while actually getting usable closet space and hang out space? How can we install a ladder and closet doors and make them both work?


After lots of noodling this is what I came up with. It is funny that even with all of the years I have been doing this a little blue tape and standing in the space is an important step. At first I thought I would make the closet on the left deep. Then we realized that it closed in the room too much and wouldn’t allow for good access to the corners. Once I stepped it back to a shelving depth, it felt right and meant we could get doors in everywhere. We are in luck that a standard walk in closet is 7′ wide (2′ on each side for hanging and 3′ in the middle). The area in blue is the portion that will remain double height. The area that isn’t colored will have loft above but not have closet space. The ladder will be on a track and move to allow for full access to the closets.


The kids (drawn to approximate current heights) should have enough space to look out the windows and curl up with some beanbag chairs on the wider end. Mr. S. says he might even want to claim the space for himself.

The Details

I have been trying to find details to work in the space. It has been a bit of a struggle. The ladder was the first thing on the list. I really like the library ladders but the cost is more than I want to spend (several hundred dollars just for the kit that you have to assemble), especially since I don’t need a long run of track just 3′.


Then I found this DIY ladder from DIY Show Off. They used a vintage ladder, but we could do the same thing with a DIY ladder made with 2x4s and 1x4s. The trick is using 3/4″ galvanized pipe and cutting a slightly larger hole in the top of the ladder.


After spending way too long looking at bunkbed ladders, I came across this one (originally from Joss & Main of all places).  I like the added triangles to give the ladder a little extra support.


I haven’t totally worked out the railings for up there, but I do want a fair amount of height and coverage. I like this railing above (source not identified). So I imagine I will design something similar.


I am also leaning towards this light from Ikea. We need something that is suitable for little kids hands, but provides a nice soft light. I also want something with a little style. At $24.99 I think we may have a winner. I also think it will be a nice contrast to the more traditional style of most of the room.

There is still a lot to figure out and detail, but I think we have a good direction, so I will be plugging away on refining it.

In the meantime if you want to see what is currently inspiring me for our third floor you can peak at my third floor pinterest page.



My little blog is officially 2 today! So to my faithful readers: Thanks for reading!

A lot has happened in the last 2 years and I have been very fortunate to have a supportive family and friends while I try out new things, write this blog and take on more clients. To my family and friends: Thanks and love you all!

I am still working on a full house tour, but today I thought I would show you some before pictures of our house (aka 2000 when I didn’t know any better). I finally dug out some of the old photos and took photos of them (yes, photos of photos) so you too could enjoy the splendor of the 1970s wallpaper and color schemes too! And, yes clearly we were crazy!


Above is the flyer that was handed out at the open house. I removed the price but I will say that the price was lowered 3 times and was pretty reasonable (although I suppose if you factor in the work required maybe not so much). It was well under our budget and over $50,000 less than the original price. I don’t think we were the “antique buffs” the previous owner was thinking of but we do LOVE our house.


This set of exterior photos are from the open house. I hope you enjoy the mustard asbestos shingles in all their glory (since thankfully they are all gone). Mr. S. is most amazed by our little privet hedge covered in ivy. One of my early jobs was spending many hours cutting out the ivy. The hedge is now 3 times as tall and wide (with some very stubborn ivy still there).


Here is the back of the house with the “entrance” to the basement office. I was so happy the day we took that off since it was blocking our view of the backyard (in what was the dining room and is now the kitchen). One interesting fact is that the entrance was made completely out of old Boeing crates (the previous owner worked there). The window on the left is now where the piano is located but was behind the fridge when we bought the house.


A straight on view of the back of the house. One of the things that sold us was the giant pine tree.


In this shot you can see the bulge in the siding (which we were very curious about). When removing the siding we realized that it was because the first floor was covered with fake brick in between the original shingles and the asbestos ones.


Just look at all that mustard! It was everywhere (well except for the brown trim)!


Please step inside! I don’t think we actually have a picture of the front hall from before we bought the house. Here is Mr. S. about a week after we bought the house taking out the red carpeting and wallpaper from the front hall. Fortunately at least the wallpaper came off easily (at least in this space).


Next up is the old Dining Room which is now the Kitchen. We had already replaced the light fixture in here. The first time we painted this space I went will a pretty bright light green. Later I thought that decision was a little too bright and primary, but when you are going from an endless see of 1970s gold, orange and brown gloom, all I could think of were happy bright colors.


This is looking back towards the front of the house. The middle door is no longer there (it has been replaced with a door in the hallway for the half bath). You can also see the corner of the wood burning stove sticking out from the fireplace. That was a beast!


Finally I am going to leave you will a before picture of our kitchen (now the Dining Room). And yes, that is all the counter space we had! The door on the right lead out to the refrigerator room. You can also just get a glimpse of the faux wood “rustic” beams that were on the ceiling. The light blue on the cabinet was my test color. We lived with this kitchen for a couple of years before making a much more suitable space in the Dining Room.

I will be back next week with some more before and after photos! We will be celebrating our little one’s birthday this weekend.



While we were working up on the third floor this weekend we spent a good bit of time talking about the house and its history. We realized that the house is going to be 125 years old in May. This may call for a Quasquicentennial Party! Hmmm, maybe this will give me incentive to get the AC working by then.

We are fortunate to know the age of the house, originally because a generous soul from our little borough put together a history complete with the year every house was built. This was confirmed a few years ago by a little slip of paper that we found under the stairs when we were building the half bath (the one in the middle of the picture above). It is a receipt for shingles dated May 2, 1888. It also includes the builder’s name Mr. J. Welsh (who built a number of houses in our town).


All of the items in the 2 frames above contain paper that we have found in the house. I think my two favorite are the piece of sheep puzzle and the letter in the top of the second one. It says, “Come over Bill and I will sit with you.” Then it has an o.k. (circled so I assume that he agreed).


This is our latest find. The previous owners’ signatures from March 4, 1977.  It is above the front windows in the third floor bedroom. Unfortunately a lot of this will be lost when we cut the plaster for the insulation. They also told us when we bought the house that there is an original 1888 signature in the craft room. Unfortunately the wallpaper is stuck on pretty tight and there is a really good chance we will loose it when we cut the plaster, which makes me a little sad.

Has anyone else found anything interesting in their house?


Third Floor Before Tour

February 7, 2013 — 6 Comments


I know its been a while! Things have actually been quite busy here. My contractor has been over finishing up some long over due projects (YEAH!). More to come on that later but I thought I would give an update on part of our upstairs project. I had a spray foam insulation contractor in last week to take a look at the messy, messy third floor. As part of this I had to finally draw some accurate plans of the third floor. I found it fascinating to see how it all fits together, since there are lots of bits in the eaves that aren’t accessible and it has been hard to figure out how they connect (and dream of future storage space). I thought I would share some before pictures. Beware I don’t usually let people up here and the in case you were wondering where the 1970s went, they are alive and well up here. This floor is currently a wasteland of stuff (12 1/2 years of stuff). Please try to not judge too harshly! Some of the furniture will actually stay, but it is impossible to see it will all of the boxes and piles of stuff. It is really hard to photograph the space, but it is actually one of the reasons we bought the house. The scale is perfect for kids (if you ignore the dangers of steep steps and low old casement windows).


Yes, those stairs are as steep as you think they are. Brown painted pine steps that are taller then they are wide. And isn’t that wallpaper a nice complement! We are thinking about removing the wall to the right to open up the hang out space.


This is my future craft room. It currently holds random Christmas decorations and half finished crafts, as well as my husbands CD collection. It is the one room where the wallpaper is not crazy, although it still needs to go!


This is actually not the same room as the previous photo (I know it is hard to tell). This is our future “hang out” space. I can totally picture a bunch of kids hanging out up here. We currently have a wall of low Billy bookcases on one side holding our books. I would like to replace them with built in bookcases some day.


This is the wall we are looking at taking out to open the space to the stairs. Any what is that crazy thing on the wall? Well that is a Victorian expansion tank for our radiators! Crazy I know! It actually was still in use until we redid the boiler about 7 years ago and added an expansion tank down there. I think it may become garden art someday. You can also see the craft room across the way.


This is the doorway to the bedroom. I don’t have to duck but Mr. S. does.


This is what we would like to use as an extra bedroom/ kids room (when they get older). There is actually a bed already here! I think a built in bed under the windows, with storage on either side, would be amazing.


And the one space that everyone wants to see, the tower! I can just fit through this without ducking!


Did I mention that we have a lot of stuff? This space is quite strange. There are no windows at eye level but the light is amazing.


Here are the tower windows! This is where we would like to build a fort up high for the kids. This space is a little strange. They never installed the interior trim on the windows. These unfortunately need to be rebuilt, but aren’t too hard to pop out.

So there you have it! You have now seen some interesting and embarrassing photos. You can see we have years of work ahead up here, and it will get much worse before it gets better. Stay tuned for another 100 posts or so on how we go about making these spaces our own.


We had a lovely vacation on the Florida panhandle, but this morning was pretty painful, after a week off and an hour time change (okay, I will stop complaining now). I have a ton of pictures to go through but I thought I would start out with a few of my favorites from our trip. Seaside and Water Color Inn & Resort are filled with lovely white beaches with lots of picturesque cottages, all beautifully planned out in “perfect” little communities (Seaside was where they filmed “The Truman Show” after all) . I was ready to move in (except for the prices and that you are in the middle of nowhere). The kids had a great time making sandcastles, “swimming” (I mean floating around the pool on inner-tubes), fishing and kayaking.

Sam's Drawing of Our Trip including swimming pools, fish, a crab and him wearing goggles

I will be back later this week with some cottage pictures, details and paint colors to inspire.

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In an old house there is a certain amount of excitement when you do demolition because you never know what you are going to find. We have a box of “finds” and have even framed a few up. The underside of our first floor was “insulated” with newspaper in 1900 (in our case the Philadelphia Inquirer). The pieces are pretty fragile but mostly still legible. Here are a couple of our favorites from this weekend:

"Talk-O-Phone" Ad Circa 1900

This photos is of an article about Ben Franklin’s grave. “Practically neglected and forgotten for 116 years, the unpretentious tomb of Benjamin Franklin” at Christ Church graveyard in Philadelphia was redone and “bedecked” (what a good word). I find this very interesting as Ben’s tomb is still a favorite site for visitors today.

Article about 100 year old Ben Franklin Burial Site

This weekend we made our way to the front of the basement (under the Living Room) on our ongoing project to remove all the old 1970s paneling and walls and we (mostly Mr. S.) removed the last major walls in our demolition project. This meant that we had to get a second Bagster for the debris, but it was totally worth it because the satisfaction of getting all the old walls out is hard to beat.

Paint Cans on Old Shelving from September (after removing a LOT of old cans)

Basement wall before Demolition

Demolition All DONE in this area!

We also signed the contract with the company who is going to install a new french drain around the entire perimeter of the basement a special “fabric” over the walls (BQ Basement Systems). They have a pretty long wait list, so it looks like we won’t be able to get this done until January, but in the meantime we still have lots to do. On the current list is:

1. Have our contractor grout the damaged areas on the old stone ruble foundation walls and remove the last wall (behind the washer and dryer)
2. Decide on the shower unit for the bathroom.
3. Rough in for the new bathroom
4. Patch the concrete floor
5. Make some decisions about the locations for future walls for the space.

We also have this crazy idea of creating an opening in one of the brick walls below our brick fireplaces and making a wine cave. I have to talk to my structural engineer about that one (it might cause issues with the shear load on the house).

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I stopped over Andi and Neil’s house on Tuesday to see how everything looked. The contractors finished up on the previous Friday so they are officially up and running! We still have to work on accessories and a window valance. After that I will actually have a photo shoot. In the meantime I know that there are some people anxiously awaiting to see how it came out. I don’t think Ikea cabinets have looked this good in a while. So without further ado…

North Wall with marble tile backsplash

North Wall, with new gas range and mircowave. You will also see the beautiful "Ming" Marble tile. The contractor installed these super tight, so there isn't a grout joint to clean.

West Wall (window valance still needs to be added). Custom butcherblock over the radiator cover

South Wall with new giant farmhouse sink. They had enough extra tile that they were able to tile the walls on either side of the sink as well.

East Wall: Custom chalk and cork side panel. This unscrews from the inside in case they need to take it down to move stuff in and out of the basement. Andi also painted with a metalic primer under the chalkboard so that magnets will stick.

Beadboard and beam ceiling with schoolhouse lights

Detail of painted dovetail cabinet door with final knob

Existing Brick wall with granite counter and fiestaware sugar bowl

Original Mood Board

North and West Wall Before

South Wall Before

East Wall Before

P.S. Tomorrow I will have a post on some options for accessories for the space.


It has been a crazy couple of weeks here. I had a big presentation to put together at the office, had to call lots of contractors for work (not a fun job!), taught 2 architectural studio classes, had a Zoning Hearing Board meeting, worked on the basement, had a long overdue Mom night’s out with my Mom Group, and tried to keep the kids happy all while not pulling my hair out. Mr. S was really helpful with the kids, including putting them to bed without me several times (it is really hard for me when I miss bedtime). My head is still a big swirly mess, but I am hoping to regain my sanity starting today.

Basement Progress: The non-load bearing part of the wall between the 2 main spaces has been removed as well as the rest of the wall on the left. The column on the left is the temporary one we added in September. The one in the middle is original. We will be adding a new column near the temporary one and one to the right (near the Ikea island) and removing the one in the middle per our structural engineer's recommendations.

Basement Progress: The wall in the distance has been completely stripped. You can also see our lovely (but extremely heavy) vintage safe (it came with the house). Column in the middle to be removed after the 2 new columns are installed.

Back door with stripped foundation walls. I actually kind of like the looks of this. Although we need to seal off these walls, they have a beautiful quality to them. I also like the beadboard and stone together. Very rustic farmhouse!

Mr. S was also busy this weekend in the basement! He has been very inspired to get the basement stripped back to its original foundation and I have been finding it is surprisingly rewarding to clear out the basement. We also had the plumber over to start mapping out the demolition of the old plumbing in the disgusting basement bathroom (so ugly in fact that I can’t show you a picture). Once we get the bathroom plumbing capped (hopefully later this week) we can start to figure out the new plumbing arrangement for the bathroom down there (which has to be done before they install the french drain and new skim coat on the floor). I also need to start looking at shower stalls. I am thinking of that opens at the corner. Maybe like this…

Round Corner Shower by ABS, $560 at Home Depot

For the bathroom we will also be using our old vintage sink that use to be in our upstairs bathroom (yeah, free and cute!). We are still deciding whether or not we will reuse the existing toilet. hmmm…. More decisions to make!

Also on the list this week is getting our Electrician over to remove some of the old wiring and our contractor to see about adding the new columns and their foundations.

P.S. Andi and Neil’s kitchen is finished (well except for the pretty accessories) and I am going to head over there to take some pictures. So stay tuned for an update later this week!

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Fall Is Here

October 14, 2011 — 1 Comment

A Barn Spider (one of several in the backyard). The kids LOVE to watch him. Fortunately I am told that they are not poisonous. This one (at least the 3 generation at this location) lives right on the deck where the kids can visit him often. We also found out the Charlotte (from Charlotte's Web) is a Barn Spider. Apparently they rebuild their web every night. No words yet!

This week has been crazy for me and I am feeling pretty worn out at the moment and I am really looking forward to the weekend. The last couple of days the weather has been drizzly, not a good pick me up! Fortunately the sky is starting to brighten up today although the ground is wet and the leaves have started to drop (and the mosquitoes are still out in force). It is really feeling like fall! I decided that it was a good morning to take some pictures of the yard (while I let the kids run around for a little bit). So I hope you enjoy!

The birch tree is starting to drop its leaves. I love how the small yellow leaves look, unfortunately it is difficult and time consuming to get them out of the planting bed.

This lace cap hydrangea is still going! The pink flowers have faded to this lovely pinky wine color. My other hydrangeas gave up long ago.

Most things have stopped blooming but the toad lilies are just getting starting to reach their full bloom and should go for another month or so.

I planted some lily tubers this spring (on special at Home Depot). It took forever for them to come up. It is a pleasant surprise that a couple of them finally decided to bloom, especially so late in the season.

These chives look lovely. I planted these from seed several years ago in a pot on my deck. They survived the winter so I put them in the ground. They have been happily growing ever since. I quite like the seed heads (which were lovely white balls over the summer). Plus they are handy for dinner!

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend! We will be eating lots of apples and hopefully hanging out at home (although the basement demolition is still lurking and there are still a few perennials that need to go in the ground). It might be time to turn the gas logs in our fireplace back on in the Living Room. We barely got to use them this spring (by the time they were installed). Of course this means that the batcave and the pink princess castle will have to move to another location.


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Stunning Door! Makes me want to paint my front door. I also love the detailed coffered ceiling and lantern.

I love good architectural detail and Charleston is a beautiful place to see some! Below is some nice eye candy from our trip. Charleston has quite a bit of nice ironwork, but I was surprised by the amount of Victorian trim and fretwork. I think of the houses being more federal and traditional in style but quite enjoyed some of the Victorian trim. I took these photos while strolling through the residential areas south of Broad. I think I will do a separate post on some of the beautiful window boxes and gardens.

Stunning Ironwork

Ironwork Gate with a Federal Entry with some Victorian Brackets. I quite like the touch of blue on the ceiling. I also like the checkerboard marble landing. It is quite British looking.

Ironwork Gate with Amazing Brownstone Spiral Stairs. Look at the perfectly manicured ivy on the steps.

Stunning Iron & Copper Gate. Another example of the checkerboard marble landing.

Stunning Iron Lamp!

Victorian Woodwork

Victorian Fretwork in a Daisy Pattern. I want to copy this somewhere on my house. After all daisies are my favorite!

Amazing Painted Wood Victorian Gate

Another Beautiful Painted Wood Victorian Gate (from the same house as above)

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