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I have a little weekend update. Our house decided to give us a couple of little presents this week.  These are both thanks to our contractor, who uncovered these gems. Above is what appears to be an insurance policy cover. It reads “Connecticut Fire Insurance Co. Hartford. Henry W. Brown & Co. Agents, 505 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia”. Given it appearance it looks to me like it dates to around the time the house was built. There was a little bit of writing on the back which unfortunately is totally illegible now. This was found in the pocket door pocket. Needless to say it was a pretty cool find. So I was really surprised when he dropped off an even cooler surprise on Friday.


This is a postcard from Harrisburg (Bird’s Eye View No. 3 of Circle of City Iron Steel Pipe) addressed to Mrs. C. G. Grayer living in our house and postmarked April 25, 1913 (exactly 100 years ago next week). The card is in remarkably good condition. It was behind a piece of baseboard in our bedroom. The baseboard did a nice job of keeping in flat and out of the sunlight.


It is pretty difficult to make out the handwriting but Verde is living here with her family. It is pretty strange to think about the number of families that have lived here over the years. I would love to spend a day in the house back in its early years.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!


I have been holding my family extra close the last couple of days. I am so saddened by what happened in Boston and my thoughts have been with the families affected. I didn’t post yesterday and still feel kind of ridiculous posting today.


We are making progress upstairs but I thought I would take a break from showing you half finished walls and show you the latest decorations for the piano.


Maisie and I did a little shopping last Friday. She even picked out her first decorations. She is in love with the elephant and rhino (after all who isn’t) although she doesn’t understand why I would buy something like that and then not let her play with them. But the thing she actually picked out were the seashells. We were at Homegoods and she gravitated to the bag of pretty seashells and asked if we could bring them home. She then very carefully put them in the bowl.  I guess it is time to start having her help more often. She also insists on having a bouquet of felt flowers next to her bed.


I also finally picked out a side table for my chair. I originally ordered a metallic ceramic wood stump stool, but after the disaster decided I should get something that didn’t require shipping. I bought this metallic garden stool at Homegoods. It didn’t have a price on it, so they decided that it should be $49.99. I said sold, considering most of the metallic ones I have seen are over $100! Mr. S. said he still preferred the tree stump, but I am excited to have a place to put my coffee cup and wine glass.


So for my spring decorating I started with the brass elements and paired them with some nice bright blues. It was feeling a bit boring so I tried mixing a few of my more colorful kitschy items.


Who doesn’t want to be welcomed home by a picture of vintage apple computer and some wacky creatures?



Sometimes it is the little stuff that makes a design work. I find particularly in renovations it almost always comes down those last couple of inches that makes or breaks the project. For our current house project the key dimension was fitting a regular depth closet in our bedroom behind our bedroom door. This unfortunately meant shifting the door 8 1/2″ to allow for the closet and the door to sit fully open. This design has been in the works for several years, just waiting for the right time (as I grow ever impatient with our closet situation). We have decided to pair this with our air conditioning and electrical work, since we need to coordinate duct and vent placement.


One of the first steps was emptying out our sorry closet and alcove to make way for the new closets. We had an old clothing rack that we hoped to use. Alas it was not meant to be and it crumpled under the weight. Fortunately Ikea came to the rescue and we picked up 2 of these Rigga clothes racks for $12.99 a piece. They are super sturdy! I give them a thumbs up. They even have wheels on them. Now the playroom has become the holder of stuff, it was time to actually get the door moved.


Of course this wasn’t an easy job and required my contractor to do some careful surgery (after Mr. S. and Sam demoed the hallway plaster).  Fortunately it is now complete, and we even have a functioning door again (if you ignore the temporary plywood on the floor)!

The other thing that he installed was an electrical conduit to the third floor. This has been a hotly debated topic with me, my contractor and the electrican. We all agreed that we need a way to get electric up the third floor to feed the air handling unit for the new air conditioner. There was LOTS of back and forth. The general agreement was that somewhere near the pocket door and this newly exposed wall made the most sense. Unfortunately once we opened this wall, we realized it was not as straight as a shot as we hoped, and we didn’t want to hurt the structural integrity of the wall.


Fortunately my contractor came up with a great plan. The pocket door down below in within a thickened wall. We had planned on installing the wiring on the hallway side, but hadn’t considered the bedroom side. It turns out that as long as I could live with a conduit in the back of my closet he could get a straight shot from the basement ceiling all the way up to the third floor. Awesome (yes I did just express my excitement of gray electrical conduit)! So here it is, along with the partially removed ceiling trim (to be modified and reused) and some interesting wallpaper from probably the 50s or 60s (there was 70s-80s wallpaper on top of this pattern when we bought the house).

My contractor will be back next week to work on these walls and some more of the bathroom doorway. I just need my AC contractor, roofer and electrician to call me back. I’m sure with the heat this week my AC guy is now swamped. Maybe I need to reiterate my air conditioning before Memorial Day mantra to him.

I can’t wait until we are done with the bit of demolition and mechanical stuff so we can actually move onto the fun stuff. So stay tuned.

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Stained Glass Options

April 5, 2013 — 4 Comments


I’m in a bit of a holding pattern here while I wait for my regular contractor to get here and coordinating with the other trades. In the meantime I have been looking at some stained glass options for the bathroom. I can’t finalize this until I know the ceiling height which is based on the air conditioning but I have a reasonable idea of the space so I thought I would show you my latest photoshop rendering of the hallway. I also added in the ceiling fan that bought.

I stopped over at Philadelphia Salvage recently but was disappointed with their selection. I need a pretty specific size so I have been lurking on ebay. I really like a lot of the stuff that Bigsteveareno29 sells. He is in Pennsylvania about 2 hours from here. I don’t think I would trust shipping stained glass, but we could plan a trip. He also sells some interesting closet fronts that I have been admiring.


This is a close up of the antique stained glass that I am currently favoring. I think it would look pretty good with our existing daisy stained glass window which is on the adjacent wall. I am pretty close to being able to make this fit with the lowered ceiling. It will be tight but I think I can make it work.


We had this our original daisy stained glass window restored when we were having the siding done. As you can see we never got around to fixing the plaster and trim around it. I figured I would add that to the list on this round of hallway work.

What do you think? Should I scrap the stained glass and just go with clear glass?



Dear Contractor,

Are you going to be late? Just give me a call (preferably not way after we were suppose to meet).

Are you not going to make it this week because of a delay? Just give me a call. In fact you can even text me if you don’t want to talk.

Do you not want to do the job? Just let me know and I will move on. I understand.

Is there a problem with the design? Please call me before you decide to just do whatever. Usually I drew it a specific way for a reason. I do actually know what I am talking about (even though I am a girl).

Do we need to spend more money and/or time on something because of some unforeseen condition? Really just give it to me straight up. I can take it!

What do you get in return? I will stay out of your way while you are doing your work. I won’t get upset when tell me that something isn’t going as planned. In fact I will work with you to come up with a solution. Trust me, I have plenty of other things to worry about. And as an added bonus I might actually recommend you.

P.S. I don’t recommend gossiping about your clients while in a crowded restaurant. It is a small world. We can hear you.



We are mostly better here in the Sentivan household. The kids are back at school and I will be heading to work shortly. I’m still not quite feeling myself and have been drinking copious amounts of ginger ale. I had hoped to have a bigger post for you this morning, but well it isn’t going to happen. I should have some good stuff for you shortly though, our contractor is suppose to start working in the next couple of days to move our bedroom door and prepare for the electrical conduit. I also have an AC contractor coming over on Wednesday to take a look. I think I am most excited about that, since lining up that work and figuring out where the ducts go, will have a big impact on everything else.


As you can see Mr. S’s fingers got a little itchy and he couldn’t help but remove a little bit of plaster over the weekend. The portion on the left at the corner was really loose. On the right there was a crack at the top and I asked him to go across so we could figure out where the studs are located. I was hoping to use the space between 2 studs in the linen closet for added depth. Unfortunately the next stud is right in the middle, so that is a no go as that would require taking out the plaster on the bedroom side another 18″ or so, which I don’t really want to do. On the hallway side this whole wall will be loosing its plaster in order to move the door and reconfigure.

Please stay tuned!

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Second Floor Update

March 26, 2013 — 6 Comments


We are slowing making progress here. We are in the midst of a stomach bug epidemic, so life has been moving a little more slowly than usual.  The contractor was just here to go over moving the master bedroom door, discuss options for the bathroom door and the handrail and show him the plans for the electric. Mr. S. and I also managed to start clearing out our bedroom in preparation for moving the door over the weekend. That was actually quite therapeutic, and it feels good to get a good bit of clutter out of the space. Of course our playroom and garage are almost full and we still have one closet in our bedroom that will require emptying and demolishing. I am thinking that we may be installing our bedroom closets piecemeal so that we can continue to function. The alternate option is to empty out the space and work like mad for a couple of weeks. Currently that seems unlikely as there are a number of trades to coordinate. Which reminds me that I have a delinquent roofer to get a hold of.


I thought I would show you my drawings for the bathroom wall since there isn’t a lot in actual progress to see.  In the picture above I threw in a couple of stained glass windows to see what I thought of adding them to the space. Of course this project cannot continue without some sort of scope creep! Since we are going to be working on this wall I thought it would be nice to add some light into the corridor from the bathroom. Well then we need windows. And well if we are going to add glass, why not add stained glass?

I think my contractor thought I was a little crazy, although he should know how I work. He did think my linen closet was ridiculously small (hey, I don’t have one, so any closet no matter how small is an upgrade).


I think I have decided in favor of exposed barn door hardware over a hidden pocket door. This one from Rustica Hardware is in a dark bronze finish which I like. The wheel are actually wood, which I think is pretty cool. I will be pairing this with a more traditionally styled Victorian Pull.


This potted flower bronze pull is from Charleston Hardware Company. It has the daisies which are always a favorite of mine. We will have to use some sort of latch to lock it, since the door isn’t thick enough for a locking mechanism.


On the ceiling in the hall we are going more industrial again. I had been eying a different ceiling fan but I saw this one (Acqua Ceiling Fan II in Textured Bronze) for a great price on Joss & Main and decided to go ahead and order it. The whole unit rotates in addition to the wood blades. Overall this space is going to be a bit more eclectic and industrial then some of our other spaces in the house. Our first floor tends to stick much closer to the Victorian feel, but upstairs I think it is okay to have a little fun. I’m sure some future owner will abhor by choices, but I am liking the direction. And frankly most of my choices could be changed to something more traditional fairly easily.

What do you think? Have I lost my mind? Am I headed toward some sort of Victorian Steampunk craziness?



Well it is Friday afternoon and I am finally getting this together. I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about the design for the tower. When I design I like to look at the space, draw it up, look at the space some more, look around for products/ review standard size cabinets, spend too much time looking on Pinterest and then go back to drawing. It usually serves me well to take breaks and come back. I often come up with my best ideas while I am laying in bed just before nodding off. I like to visual the space in my head (yes I am a design junky).

I am liking the mix of materials in the collage above. It will inevitably be impossible to photograph but it should look pretty cool.


To pin down the design, I drew up a basic structural plan. I needed to get an idea of where we would put in columns and floor joists for the tower. The columns will interfere with the closet space a little bit, but we only need 6. The majority of the joists will tie into the walls. I will install a board that will attach to the wall joists and then use joist hangers off of that to hold the floor joists. It is fairly similar to a deck design.  I haven’t decided how I am going to finish the ceiling of the closets, but I am planning on cladding the beat up plaster with the thin plank material and a 1×4 board at the top to attach the clothes rod to. I figure some of the final details will have to get figured out as we go.

As part of this I needed to decide whether we were going to install doors on the closets or just use curtains. Ultimately we decided that we really want doors. Maybe I will regret that, but I like the idea of having doors that kids and pets can’t get into very easily. I am planning on using this area to store out of season clothes and storage bins that hold the kids baby clothes. At the back of the tower the closet will be narrower and have shelves, which I would like to use for some of my knick-knacks.


The next question was what kind of doors and were we going to DIY them. I thought about just making simple beadboard doors, which would actually match what is up there now, but after a lot of debate and reading this post from Sawdust Girl about making doors, I decided that it would make sense to buy doors, especially after I discovered Barker Door. They offer custom American made doors in a bunch of materials and finishes. They have good reviews and a pretty quick turn around. If I could stay at 72″ high the price per door was reasonable. This meant that the top couple of inches of the closet wall will have a trim piece, but considering that saves $70 a door, I am willing to make that compromise. After looking at their options and prices I have decided on the Westminster door style which is a flat inset panel door w/ a nice triple bead detail. I am going to go with the alder frame and mdf panel. These should paint beautifully and be nice and sturdy. I have been debating whether the doors should be fully inset or overlaid. Overlay doors  are much more forgiving, but I really prefer the look of the inset. Again Sawdust girl laid it all out for me. I am thinking that I may wait and order the doors after I have the frames up, so  I can make sure that everything is the correct dimension and Barker door allows you to order down to 1/16″. I am also considering their doors for the Ikea closets for the Master Bedroom.

I am off to take care of my sick little one. I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

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I am on a Jacobean fabric kick! I was going to write about where I am headed on closet doors for the third floor tower, but I got distracted and thought I would show you my latest find. I have been stalking fabric again on And they do have some pretty good deals, if you have the patience to sift through fabric pictures, since they don’t usually give you the fabric’s name. Granted these curtains won’t be installed for months, since we will be a construction zone until then. But I saw it and decided to pick up the fabric now, especially since I have been on the hunt for way too many months.


The fabric is Braemore Wonderland in Pearl. I have actually pinned this fabric twice on my fabrics board on Pinterest (once as a close up and once in a bigger repeat). There are several reasons I like this fabric. First is the scale. It is hard to understand in the picture but the pattern is huge!


from Lily on Blue on Etsy (no longer available)

I think it is easier to understand on this pillow. The second thing I like are the funky leaf patterns. I think that the fabric will play well with my giant Best Panels that will be installed behind the bed.  The third thing is the color palette. It works really well with the crazy striped rug, particularly the yellow and oranges. It doesn’t have a white background like I wanted, but it does have a white highlight which I think is important to work with the white trim in the room.


The third reason is that Mr. S. liked it and agreed it would work well in our bedroom. I held up a picture of it on the ipad next to the window and he gave me the thumbs up. And how could I say no after I found out that Sarah Richardson likes it. The picture above is from her Sarah 101: Premiere Episode. She is really a master with color and pattern!

So the downside is the price. I need about 18 yards of fabric, so price is pretty important. When I first started looking at fabric I really wanted to use a Premier Print fabric, in large part because of the affordability. The cheapest I had found Wonderland for about $30 a yard at OnlineFabricStore. Which wouldn’t be SO bad if I were only buying a few yards. At fabric guru they had 2 lots this week of this fabric. Just to make it confusing 1 lot was listed as Braemore (no pattern name) and one lot was listed as Kaufmann. The 2 totaled just about the right amount. Apparently it is fairly common for the different brands to have some of the same fabric listed under different names. I haven’t seen this particular fabric ever listed under Kaufmann before, but I suppose it is possible. The pictures online looked identical. We will see if there is any variation between the two when they get here. I ended up paying just over $12 a yard for 18 yards including shipping, which I think it a pretty sweet deal. The fabric shipped this morning and I can’t wait to see it.

Has anyone scored any good fabric deals lately?



I am generally a big fan of power tools (heck, I am a master of the compound miter saw). So you think I wouldn’t get nervous using a new one. Well, you would be wrong! For my birthday last July, Mr. S. bought me a compressor and 3 pack of nail guns. Isn’t he the best! The box has been sitting unopened in the basement for months as I gathered the courage to actually use them. In my defense we haven’t actually been working on anything requiring nailing, but I certainly haven’t gone out of my way to actually making use of them. In fact the box had been sitting there long enough, that it had acquired a pile of stuff on top (please tell me that happens to other people too?).

Well this week I am going to be helping out one of my clients, and I could really use a nail gun to speed up installing some trim. So I decided it was time to face my fear and try it out, and trim out the door to the basement closet (another long overdue project).  While the rest of the family was upstairs and I was waiting for some laundry I cut open the box. Everything was packaged neatly and I went to work reading and re-reading the instructions. The compressor totally freaks me out (I guess anything that could blow up should do that). I made sure I understood how to pull the release valve and what pressure the dial should be set at. Then I unboxed the brad nailer. I picked it up. It was so cool! I read through all the parts and practiced unlocking and locking the trigger and installing the nails. Okay maybe this isn’t so scary after all.

So after a break and putting everything in place, I set up the compressor and plugged it in. I HATE the noise when the compressor starts up. It is so loud and powerful! I turned the adjuster knob and watched the pressure fill up in less than 2 minutes. I actually set the pressure too high and had to quickly lower it so I didn’t exceed the recommended range.

With the compressor set I decided it was now or never. I carefully plugged in my gun. The air whooshed out but I managed to click it in on the second try. Next up is putting in the nails. That was pretty straightforward! I very carefully released the trigger switch and put my trim in place. I pushed the nozzle (I’m not sure if that is what you call it) and pressed. It is actually really quiet. Phew, it worked! The nail didn’t go in as much as I wanted so I adjusted the depth gauge. The second one went in perfect! Awesome!


Within 5 minutes I was done putting the trim on the door. That would have easily taken over an hour by hand, and not worked as well! As I went I started to come up with a strategy for installing this thin trim.


I started with the bottom piece with 2 nails. Next I lined up one of the verticals. I nailed it a couple of inches from the bottom corner, making sure it was tight to the bottom trim. Then I nailed the other vertical the same way. Next I installed the top horizontal piece with 2 nails (after roughly checking that the verticals would align). Finally I connected the top of the 2 verticals near the top creating a tight joint and added a couple of extra nails in the middle for good measure. It worked surprisingly well. The nice thing about these nails is that once one is in, it stay tighter than with a traditional nail (so you don’t have to hold the trim very tightly).

When I installed the same trim on the bathroom door (before the nail gun), it was really sloppy. Above you can see one of the corners on the bathroom door after I filled the holes. Not so nice! Granted I don’t stand this close to the door very often, but definitely not nearly as professional looking.

I am now actually excited now about using my new set. I know it will be really helpful on the third floor (once we get to trim). That reminds me there are some trim pieces around the house that need some help. Let me at them!