Glenlochan -The Beginning

Glenlochan -The Beginning
Glenlochan - The Beginning

Glenlochan Today

Glenlochan Today
Glenlochan Today

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Celebrating Lessons Learned and Sound Decisions

With New Year's Eve quickly approaching, this is prime reflection time:  Thinking back over the last year, applauding resolutions kept, self-reprimanding for those that got away, setting new ones for the coming year...and this time with extra resolve to keep them all.  As part of the reflection process it is cathartic to think about all of the learning opportunities we've had so far on this project.  There have been a LOT - both good decisions and huge mistakes we've made.  I hope sharing a few of our learning opportunities can help others embarking on, or already squarely in the middle of, a renovation journey.

 1.  It's a really good idea to re-check the placement of the outlets, lights, and switches that you decided on in the electrical rough-in stage - it may save you from cutting new holes in the drywall to move these around when you realize the location is less than ideal.  Or not high enough to hang the mirrors above the bathroom vanity as a random example (vanity lights were originally pointed down, but they had to be reversed to fit above the mirror).

2.  Ditto on the rough plumbing - recheck prior to drywall to ensure the plumbing is located correctly to fit into your cabinetry and vanities.  The clawfoot is ever so slightly off center in the window  - but had to be to align correctly with the plumbing fixtures installed in the already tiled floor.

3.  If you are using interior white trim paint, check the actual coverage on actual primed trim before committing to a color/brand to save from having to do more than 2 coats after the primer.  The extra coat needed for decent coverage on the trim and doors used up countless hours...and we still counting since there is trim that remains in need of paint.

4.  Select your appliances as early as possible in the process and measure, measure, measure.  Don't assume that the latest and greatest models of washers and dryers, for example, have similar dimensions to older models.  We ultimately had to stack the washer and dryer because the front loading steam versions I really wanted did not fit as planned in the laundry room.

5.  Think carefully and creatively about room layout, considering things like activity and noise levels, light seepage from other rooms, and likely bedtimes of residents and guests. Although we love having the repurposed stained glass window in the main upstairs bathroom, for example, we failed to consider that the room on the other side of the window is the master bedroom sitting room.  Anytime someone uses the main bathroom in the middle of the night, the light shines through the stained glass window and right into our bedroom!

 6.  One can never have too many cabinets and built-ins - it's just not possible.  These aren't completely filled yet and I'm already planning more!

 7.  One actually can have too many wineglasses - hard to believe, but true (and a function of my thrifting AND attending a lot of wine tastings...).  I'm in the process of paring down - they just don't all fit.

8.  Purge before you pay to store things, not after.  Avoid this, if possible.

9.  Whatever budget you've carefully developed, add 10%...and then add another 20% and pray you come close to that.  But remember, some splurges are ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT, especially having professionals restore treasures from the past.


10.  You can save time or money but not usually both (as evidenced by a number of unfinished projects that still remain like the DIY mantel restorations).

11.  Spray foam insulation is worth every penny of the additional cost - do it if you can.  It pays for itself the first winter, and you cannot beat the snug, airtight comfort.

Most importantly, remind yourself of the progress made, even when the road ahead is still pretty long and dark, and always take comfort from the fact that there are no mistakes that cannot be fixed, worked around, incorporated in, or used to improve the original plan.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Adorned Door

We are on a temporary break from work on the house.   After months of going full speed all the time, it feels good to relax, enjoy the holidays, family and friends, and generally relieve the stress of the past few months.  And, in the spirit of relaxation and minimalization this year, we decided not to decorate for the holidays - in either VA or Philly - except for a few festive lights.  We've had quite enough of packing and unpacking boxes this year, thank you very much!  But, we received a very nice housewarming present, a most beautiful wreath, for the front door of Glenlochan.  It definitely counts as a holiday decoration, we didn't have to do any work to get it on the door, and it looks spectacular.

Thanks Doug and Jean for the best housewarming present possible - perfect!  And, congratulations to Tereasa on her graduation, the occasion that brought us all together.  The nursing profession has a compassionate, passionate and spectacular new RN and we are all so proud.


Monday, December 9, 2013

A Good Cleaning

In a bit of a break from construction, painting and moving, we've been focused on cleaning in the past few weeks.  First, the construction mess had to be cleared out, then the mess from moving in and unpacking had to be dealt with, and all dishes, towels and bedding had to be washed. The tubs and floors needed a good scrubbing.  Rob spent one full day removing many of the stickers on the windows and doors (thanks Tereasa and Ashley for your help with the ones he didn't finish!).

In our remaining storage units (yup, plural, heavy sigh - we still have 3, but I'm hoping to get that pared down to 2 pretty soon) we have numerous rugs of varying sizes and styles.  Although a couple were ones that we owned from our previous home, the majority were ones that were in Glenlochan when we first purchased it.  They were beyond dirty when they were in the house and two years in non-climate controlled storage did nothing for their appearance or odor.  On a recent sunny and bearably tepid day, I decided to tackle cleaning a small rug.  Although we believe a few of the rugs to be antique and those will definitely require the skills and advice of professionals, there were a few in the mix that were not vintage and I decided to attempt a home cleaning of one of those.  This one seemed to be a good "trial" size for attempting a DYI rug sanitation/cleaning.

The rug was filthy, smelly and nothing I would  put in my house when we pulled it out of storage.  It still had the label on it, so I knew the fiber content (largely wool) and I was not about to pay for a professional cleaning job - the one time I did that, the results were awful.  So, armed with my sprayhose, woolite, a stronger laundry soap, and a good scrub brush in hand, I set up a cleaning "station" outside - two sawhorses covered with a plywood board, and a clean sheet over the top to protect the rug. 

I didn't actually unroll the rug until I was ready to start cleaning, and I had not ever really looked at the rug before it was put into storage, so imagine my surprise when I finally unrolled it and the colors were a PERFECT MATCH to the wallpaper in the breezeway.  I do not think we could have picked a better rug for the space, but the fact remained that it was in really gross shape.  If I couldn't get it completely clean and, almost more importantly, smelling so good that I was willing to stick my nose in the fibers, then it wasn't coming in to the house, match or no.

I rinsed the rug thoroughly, scrubbed both sides completely with a diluted mixture of woolite and laundry soap for stains and a gentle brush, sprayed it repeatedly with the hose, full force, and then carefully squeegeed out as much water as possible with my hands.  Because the rug was still dripping and we were heading back to Philly that afternoon and not scheduled to return for six days, I elected to leave it on the porch, on sawhorses with another clean sheet, for a week to dry.  Not the best solution, but I reasoned that the fresh air could only help air it out, dry it naturally, and give it the best chance of having a pleasing smell.  Of course, I wasn't sure what we'd find when we returned a week later, but I was cautiously optimistic, despite the stinky wet wool smell.

This story has a happy ending - the rug survived the week, smelled wonderful when we arrived back, was clean and, after a good vacuuming, ready for it's new place of honor in the breezeway.  It looks great.

I'm sure the rug professionals would cringe at my technique, but it worked  and I know it's actually clean from the inside out, not just superficially clean.  I'm ready to use this method with the remaining rugs that are not vintage/antiques.  Now I just need some better weather to transform the yard into a temporary rug cleaners - this winter and arctic air of late won't cut it.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Not" First Memories

We celebrated our first holiday with family in Glenlochan and today is the first day in a full week that hasn't involved overeating, game-playing, and good fun.  In fact, for most of us, it was a day of travel headaches and delays whether at the airport or on the highways (some are still making their way home and safe travels to everyone).

Although I have been looking forward to making our first memories in the house over the Thanksgiving holiday I realized this week that we weren't making our first memories at all.  We may not have realized it at the time, but there were so many memorable moments in the demo and rebuild of the house over the last 2.5 years.  From this:
 To this:

We made memories at every stage of the project and this week we made more.  As we enjoyed the house, the piles of remaining work were never far from our minds - the unfinished items were hard to avoid in each and every room (still no written punch list).  But, Thanksgiving provided a temporary hiatus and we tried not to look at the unpainted trim, the still unfilled nail holes, the fireplace slate not yet tiled in, and on and on and on.

Instead we focused on adding to our already budding collection of memories.  Thanksgiving almost didn't happen in Glenlochan due to a blocked sewer line at the road (discovered first thing Thanksgiving morning when the toilets started making ominous bubbling sounds) but thanks to the quick responses from the sanitation department on a holiday no less, the line was unblocked without any delay to the holiday festivities.  Thank you Hampton Roads Sanitation! 

From fresh baked bread (made by Rob), to beautifully set tables (courtesy of Ashley and Tereasa!) to frosting cookies, and everything else in between (not pictured, the many highly competitive games of Train Dominoes) it was a fantastic first holiday:
 Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stained Glass Window 2

When we first bought Glenlochan, one of the interesting features in the home was a stained glass window, buried in a downstairs master bathroom in the back of the home and surrounded by painted green trim:
When we tore off the poorly built back addition of the home to rebuild a new one, Rob carefully removed the stained glass window and brought it to Philly.  I had fortunately happened upon a stained glass business in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Phildelphia, Majeki's Stained Glass.  Although the above picture doesn't really show it, the window was in very poor shape - damaged and neglected.  Frankly, we weren't sure if it was worth any effort or cost of restoration - it seemed like it might be fake, not real.  Majeki's owner agreed to take a look at it for us over the phone and to our surprise, we weren't even through the door carrying the window when he was busy exclaiming how wonderful it was. 

It is, apparently, quite real, quite worth the restoration costs (which were not insignificant) and quite beautiful.  Likely dating back to the 1920's based on some of the "jewels" incorporated into the window, his guess was that it originally came from a church.  How it ended up in Glenlochan is a mystery, but we were pleased to have it restored after learning more about it and the materials in it.  This all happened over a year ago, and after the restoration was complete, we carefully stowed the window, heavily wrapped, in the back of a closet in Philly, not trusting that it wouldn't be damaged if it was on site during the construction phases.  With all that has transpired in the past year I had really forgotten what the window even looked like. 

Once the heavy construction was finished a few weeks ago, it was time to transport the window to Virginia, which I did on one of my solo night treks from Philly to VA.  I carefully seatbelted the window in my car across my back seat.  It was a nervous trip - gingerly driving and hoping I didn't have any mishaps en route (and Tosha had to sit in the front seat, not her usual spot at all, which was a bit distracting for both of us).  Thankfully, we all arrived in one piece.

We had earmarked the window for a place of honor in the study - with a beautiful view of it immediately upon entering the home in the breezeway.  Rob had previously ordered a custom window for that spot, designed to have the stained glass window carefully installed over it at the end of the process.

Install day:

And, here's the finished result.  The pictures don't really do it justice, but it's stunning.  We are happy to have been able to restore such a neat piece (more on the great vintage and original Glenlochan light fixture also in the shot soon).

Monday, November 11, 2013

One More Door - Repurposed!

Yup, I lied when I said that all the interior doors were completely done.  There was one more little door project to complete, but it was a BIG door.

This was the original back door of Glenlochan, saved from the project prior to the demolition phase.  Measuring about 40 inches across and 68 inches tall, it was a beauty (with a little imagination).  The above shot shows it partially stripped - I cannot take credit for the stripping of this door, both our cabinet maker and Rob worked on this one.

When we designed the kitchen, we knew we wanted to re-purpose the door in some way, and our idea was to use it for a huge pantry door.  The old glass couldn't be saved (and we needed tempered glass given the size of the panes) but just any old plain glass just wouldn't do for such a cool door.  So, as per usual, I shopped around in person and then online for the perfect glass, which only took weeks to find.  Luckily, one day I happened upon Bendheim Cabinet Glass which not only had an awesome selection of glass, but also sold small samples, and we had about 12 samples to peruse in the comfort of our home in just a few days.  There wasn't one in the mix we didn't like, which was a welcome problem to have.

The above shot is the glass we selected:  European Clear River Ice Horizontal and we used the same glass in all the cabinets that had glass fronts, as well as the pantry door.  As the pantry was being built, we had to fit the door, with a few modifications, we were able to make it work:

Then our cabinet maker applied the same paint, glaze and lacquer to the door to match it to our cabinetry.

The final step was to add the glass and hardware before the final install.  Then end result is awesome, and it's the best pantry I've ever had, made more special because we were able to keep, improve and re-purpose that great old door.

Loving it!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Moving Day!

Even though the project is not completely done, we desperately wanted to get moved into the house - and we are planning on having Thanksgiving dinner there this year, done or not!  Almost 2 years to the day after we sold our Richmond home and put all but a single carload of our belongings into climate controlled storage, we were able to liberate our stuff from the tightly packed, floor to ceiling, 30x10 storage unit that had held our items.  

I had mixed emotions in the weeks leading up to the big move.  On the one hand, it was going to be so great to get our stuff back again.  On the other hand, it was, well, stuff.  I hated to think that I was getting worked up about a pile of things - it seemed so materialistic.  Frankly, if we managed to survive for two years without it, no issues, no problems, how much could it matter?  Turns out, it doesn't.  Matter, that is, not so much - possessions are not life or death, there was nothing hanging in the balance, and I would have survived never seeing any of it ever again.  Although I think I've always known that, it's been great to have that reinforced so strongly at this stage of my life. 

Having said that, though, once we got through the hectic crazed move itself, there was unexpected comfort, lots of great memories, humor and disbelief, and an incredible warmth in the ritual of unpacking the boxes to see what each one held.  In some cases it was like Christmas - wow, I forgot I had a cherry pitter (who doesn't need a cherry pitter in his or her kitchen??); in other cases the reaction was more like, I cannot believe I paid storage fees on a box of glass jars that should have been recycled years ago.  There were oohs over the unopened Dremel and attachments still in the box - I now own two so I'll never be without - and heavy sighs from Rob that we stored not one, not two, but FOUR completely out of date, boxy, and very old tvs.  We are donating  a lot of items - it's so interesting how a two year break from my stuff gave me a whole new perspective.  I'm not embracing minimalism, mind you, but I am very much in de-clutter and keep the essentials mode.  Rob's about two decades ahead of me in that regard!

The day before moving day did not end on a high note.  I arrived late the night before, making the long drive from Philly after work.  Although I had hoped to roll right into the not-so-comfy air mattress upon arrival to rest up, Rob had other plans.  He was, no joke, in the middle of about three different projects, all of which he planned to compete before our final inspection the following morning at 7 am.  Yikes.  This was not what I had envisioned, but I also went to work and several hours later, we fell exhausted into the air mattresses and grabbed a couple of fitful hours of sleep prior to the 6 am alarm.  That was an ugly sound, it came all too soon and we quickly chugged a pot of coffee trying desperately to wake up.  Thankfully, everything was smooth sailing after that.  The final inspection went without a hitch and we hightailed it out to the storage unit arriving, literally, on the bumper of the moving truck.  Our awesome movers had us completely loaded in a short three hours - the storage unit was clean as a whistle and was due to be re-occupied the next day.  Our mattresses and cushions were all intact - no unwanted guests (aka rodents) had made their homes in them, a nagging worry that was, thankfully, unwarranted. 

A few hours later, we were completely unloaded.  Left to our own devices with mountains of boxes and bags in each room.

There was a mild disagreement about the most important piece of furniture in the mix.  Our king sized bed was my choice - man was it glorious to sleep in a king sized bed again.  This was Rob's pick, although it was a close call, even for him - he loved the king bed, too:
Because we only had the weekend to unpack, there was no way it was all going to get done, but my goal was to get the kitchen done (Rob's was the humidor!).  Everything else could wait for subsequent weekends, but I was determined to clean and line every kitchen shelf, unpack every box, and wash every dish - eating in the camper for so long with only microwaveable meals or eating fast food had taken its toll.  Hand in hand with unpacking the kitchen, I was eager to "oil" the soapstone counters.  The result was incredible - here's a before and after of the small counter by the wine nook:

Here's a few more shots of the oiled soapstone (and an unpacked fully functioning kitchen):
Clean and unpacked, with several boxes of kitchenware awaiting donation, one room down, many to go!