Sunday, June 17, 2007

Stripping for Pleasure

I'm getting impatient with our door situation. When we paid for the interior of the house to be painted, included in the price was the cost for stripping the original Craftsman doorframes around four interior doors. The painters stripped the frames, but there's still a lot of paint left, and also burn marks, where the strippers were a little too aggressive with the heat gun.

We sent all the doors out to a professional to be "dipped and stripped," and they came back much cleaner than our door frames.
Personally, I felt that stripping these frames was necessary for Poppy's safety because of the lead paint that surely lurked below (several) layers of non-lead paint. But now the question is, do I go in with some sand paper and chemical paint stripper on my own to clean these up, or can I get the painters to improve upon the job they've already done, or will it even matter if we put a dark stain over the whole shebang?
The bottom line is I thought stripped down doors and frames would be really lovely. But these look like barf.
(click on the image above to get a really close look)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Architectural Mash-Ups

Dwell Magazine has a article in this month's issue called "Mid-Century Mash-Ups" that highlights a San Franciso Victorian that was updated in the 50s with all sorts of cool built-ins and other mid-century details. The article got me thinking about my love-hate relationship with the Jewel of Hollywood's two competing eras.

The back of the Jewel was built in 1916 and appears to have been born a Craftsman, as evidenced by the mouldings around some of the upstairs door frames and ceiling of the master bath. But somebody must have had a windfall in the 50s, because the house got a thorough re-do around that time. They squared off all the ceilings (bye, bye mouldings) and doorframes, and made an addition to the front of the house that removed any trace of what was probably your traditional Craftsman porch.

So, part of me sees this as a tragic bastardization of an original Craftsman. But there's this other part of me that can't believe how lucky I am to have a house that fulfills two competing parts of my own taste. I mean, who wouldn't want to restore an original craftsman? On the other hand, how cool is it to be able to go crazy mid-century on a house, bring in modern elements and make a swanky, loungy, edgy kind of place? We are lucky enough to get to do both in one house.

When we were crashing at Celia & Jim's downtown loft, I read some of Celia's House Beautiful magazines -- though I thought it was a little weird that someone who lived in this amazing loft with huge windows and industrial floors subscribed to House Beautiful, but then Celia is a woman of many mysteries. Anyway, I read a couple articles about these people who built amazing new homes on ridiculously huge properties in fabulous neighborhoods. In one of the articles, the architect had purposely designed the house to look as though it had an addition. He said something to the effect of, 'If you look at some of these older homes, they start out small and people add on, so I wanted that to character to be part of this design." In another of the articles, the interior designer purposely mis-matched some of the paneling and the wallpaper so that it would look as though pieces had been added over time.

What these people are trying to achieve is something that we've got in spades at the Jewel, and that's character. You KNOW the jewel is not a McMansion. And that's really the beauty of living in an architectural hybrid.

The bottom line -- at least for me is -- don't fight it. Embrace it.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Payoff

Sometimes I ask myself the question that renovators throughout history have come to ask:

"Why am I doing this to myself?"

Why have I wreaked this renovation havoc on myself, my family, our lives? We had a house. It was finished. It had beautiful views, and working plumbing, and books on shelves, and a green lawn. Is it worth giving all that up? Is it worth the dust and the parade of laborers, and the money -- of course, the money -- and the stress and the heartache and the perpetual, never-ending mess, just for a better location?

Today feels like the answer is yes. Jim, Poppy and I finally got a chance to make the most of our neighborhood a little bit today. We walked from our house up Beachwood Canyon to a flea market in Hollywood Village. You know Hollywood Village. It's right below the Hollywood Sign and grew up around the original real estate office for Hollywoodland Real Estate. I won't digress to a history of the Hollywood sign, but if you're interested, NPR's got a quick primer.

(Disclaimer: These pictures are somewhat lacking in authenticity as I forgot my camera on our actual walk and had to return in my car after the fact to snap where we'd been. I might have gotten away with it, too, except that the frame of my car found its way into the picture below.)

Before hitting the market, we dropped in to the Village Coffee Shop for cups of joe and some grits for Poppy, which she consumed -- but reluctantly, and with a look of utter disgust.

Across the street, the flea market was small but friendly, with a bake sale at the entrance. There were babies, and people with dogs, and lots of stuff that looked like one-time swag for sale, including a Holga camera that I think Jim is still regretting not buying. The vibe was just surprisingly neighborhoody and sweet and casual and NEAR.

So, we moved to the Jewel of Hollywood for the commute (or lack thereof). But now that we're here, we're liking the neighborhood more all the time.

As for whether or not it's all worth it, I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Crack is Whack

Behold, the crack in our living room wall. This is a new addition to our decor. Didn't photograph too well, but it's definitely there.

We knew from the first walk through that the floors in the house were a bit lumpy and uneven. What can you expect? The house is over 90 years old. It wasn't until we moved the piano and the china cabinet in that we noticed that the center of the house had a noticable slump. When I opened the doors to the china cabinet, they naturally pulled to the right, while the piano looked like it might at any moment slide to the left. (see below - china cabinet on the left, piano on the right.)

We called the wonderful folks at Seismic Safety who restored the rest of the foundation and asked what they could do. Four hydrolic lifts placed under the slump brought the center of the house up a full inch-and-a-half, and left this and a handful of smaller cracks in the walls along the way.

It's hard not to be discouraged when I look at this split. Two steps forward, one step back. But I have to remind myself it's just drywall.

And sanding. And mess.

And money.

OK, so ... maybe I have a reason to feel discouraged.