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I got a little sidetracked with my last attempt at listing my non-resolutions for 2010.  As much as I wanted to turn the page on 2009, I guess reflecting on the good things that came out of the decade leading up to (and even including) it was sort of a healthy way to do it.

Could it be argued then, that rolling over unaccomplished to-do’s from 2009 into 2010 is an unhealthy way to start the year?  Call me sickly then, ’cause herewith is my list of home improvement goals from last year, with short status updates.  I figure it will give me equal parts satisfaction for completing the things I did, and incentive to finish up the things I didn’t.  Updates will be in blue.

  1. make a home improvement binder that includes measurements for each room, including windows, closets, floors, etc.  Also include contact numbers for repairmen, hardware store, etc.  (note: this is separate from my magazine ‘inspiration’ binder –  alright, binders.)  Haven’t done yet.  Still a great idea, though.
  2. strategize about deck issue (ugh, long story) No money in 2009 put this off.  Right now we’ve got about 1-2 feet of frozen snow on the deck, which should put the issue off for another few weeks if we’re lucky.

3. add post to top of driveway with better address signage.  Nope.  Not yet.

4. mudroom – a place to sit/put on boots/store hats.  I put a folding chair out there this year.  It seems to be working fine, though it’s only helpful to one person at a time.

Update: this comment was supposed to be funny, but it didn’t translate.  I really DID put a chair out there this year – a folding chair, at that – but the idea that I would count that as some kind of accomplishment is funny, right?  Or…maybe just pathetic.  Um, I’ll work on my delivery.

5. living room – couches? Yeah, what about those couches?

6. dining room – reupholster & reglue chairs.  I’m still holding out for Annie Selke.

7. dining room – table.  I did actually speak to my furniture-making friend about this.  It will be great when we have the money to commission him to do it.

8. living room/loft – tv solution. Anuj flips through the Best Buy flyer every Sunday remarking how flat screen prices are coming down.  That’s about as far as we’ve gotten there.

9. master – bed and mattress –  no more sleeping on the floor! Wait – we really did this one!  We got a Malm bed frame and mattress from IKEA in New Jersey, squeezed the boxes and plastic into the Subaru and drove it all the way up here only to discover the headboard was busted when we opened the box.  Nice.  A week and one hellacious trip to the IKEA returns department later, we got a new one back up here and put together.  Killed my back putting the damn slats together, but we got the adjustable ones, so that’s the price you pay.

The latex Engenes mattress is a bit firm for my taste (were we gonna have to return that, too?), but Anuj needs it for his back, so I’ve thrown a camping pad under my side of the bed and I think we’re all good.

10. master – paint. This is really going to happen.  I mean, look at that yellow.

11. upstairs bath – sconces. Another task accomplished!!  Anuj installed a double sconce in the Jill half of the Jack-n-Jill bathroom last fall.  Look out, 2010, ’cause Anuj might just do the Jack half next.

12. upstairs bath – solution for storing towels, etc.  Um, we’re gonna stick with what we’ve got for now.

13. upstairs hall – clean and line drawers of dresser.  Someday, someday.

14. upstairs bedroom(s) – replace trim. Anuj will do this in 2010.

15. upstairs bedroom(s) – paint. Our painter will do this in 2010.

16. basement bedroom – bed. The room is empty now because of the water damage from all the rain.  My Dad says he’ll show us how to make a french drain in the driveway this summer which should prevent any further damage.  So, no guests, or bed, down there until then.

17. basement bedroom – paint. See #15.

18. all bedrooms – update window treatments (IKEA?).  This is still on the list.  Our windows are the original awkwardly sized from 1975, which makes finding a solution difficult.  I’m either going to follow Anna’s lead and cut the Enje shades, or buy roman shades to size from Target.  There’s no way we’re going custom.

19. water heater – wait for it to die?  replace? Good question.

20.gutters?  repair? Dad fixed this for us this year.  Thanks Dad!  No more water running off the roof onto the side of the house.  Unfortunately, we still need to repair the chipped paint.

21. document improvements more regularly, and more professionally (my photos err on the blurry side)  Yes, we need a better camera.  Anuj has finally come on board to the idea, so we’ll see what 2010 brings.

Wow.  Did I mention that 2009 sucked?  Clearly we didn’t get a lot done.  Though as I’m writing this, I’m reminded of a few small (cheap) projects I completed but never blogged.  Maybe I will.  ‘Cause this feels pretty sad.  I know, we did a lot of entertaining, and hiking, and cooking this year, and that’s all really really good.  But our home is important to me, feeling comfy and happy and inspired inside it.

So I resolve to create more reasonable to-do lists in 2010.  And not publish the lists for all to see, so I can avoid embarrassment this time next year.  I’ll just post the projects as I do them with a big “ta da!” and you can all be impressed.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I discovered two other Columbia county homesteaders last year that I’d like to introduce you to: Ann at A Chicken in Every Granny Cart and Christine at Just off the Taconic.  Take a peek at their upstate/downstate adventures if you have a moment.  2009 hit them hard, too, but that doesn’t take away from their charm.  In fact, I find it slightly comforting to know that we’re not the only ones desperate to turn the page.


Our first major investment in the house was having it painted. We considered doing the work ourselves, but between the crazy-high ceilings of the LVR and our own sketchy track record (cough – nyc living room – cough), we decided to have a local professional do the common areas of the house, which includes the living room, dining room and upstairs hallway/loft that overlooks the living room.

The big debate was white or gray. Flipping through my inspiration binder and magazine collection (Anuj begged me to purge some of it this year so I gave up a few years’ worth of Country Home and a dozen or so House & Gardens, but no one’s coming between me and my Dominos!), white was favored to win. Open living plan, clean country look, let nature be the color, and all that.

But then we decided: let’s bring some nature inside. Give the house some warmth, some life beyond the many shades of white. So we went gray. Gloomy? Surprisingly no. I ear-marked a few gorgeous gray rooms from my magazines, but we knew how much lighting (and a few style editors) played into that. Choosing the right gray was crucial. We went Edgecomb Gray.

Here are the Before & Afters. Our painter did an amazing job, and so did my Dad (remember the trim project?):

Dining room Before

Dining room Before

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A few weeks after my Dad installed the interior window, we slave driving-children had him back to help with our next big undertaking: the trim. As I’ve mentioned, this house was built in the 70’s, and when we bought it in January, it was still bearing many of those less-than-inspired architectural and design features like ugly trim around all the doors and along the floor in most of the rooms.

See it here (with the ugly linen cabinet thing Anuj tore down to make room for the interior window):

The doors of our house aren’t real wood – they’re not even particleboard – they’re just horrible. We knew we couldn’t replace them (at least not yet…), so we decided we’d just paint them and replace the trim around them.

Back to our local lumberyard we went for wood that would be our trim. I knew I wanted a more ‘country’ look, but I wasn’t sure it would jive with our 70’s home – but my Dad assured me it would be great. And so we skipped over the fancy moldings you find in the city or newer homes (saddle, quarter-round, t-mold, shoe) and settled on a historic Colonial standard: 1×6 pine for the baseboards and 1×4 for the door trim. Nothing else. Plain, simple, timeless.

Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s the (almost) finished result of the window project. Dad added the decorative trim around the window. We were stuck on how wide the trim should be – it needed to cover the framing, but the size we got meant he had to cut away part of the switch plate on the right to get it to fit. We’re really happy with the result. All that’s left is to paint.

To the right you can see a preview of Dad project 2: trim.

In my original post when I mentioned DIY projects we’ve completed thusfar, I didn’t only mean projects Anuj and I completed. There are some other folks who have already contributed a generous amount of sweat and inspiration to our 1975 not-so-blank canvas.

During one of our early walk-thrus before the house was even ours, I got the idea to add a window to the interior wall of the ‘office’ as a way to bring in more light. Currently occupying the wall was a massive, fugly linen cabinet-type-thing that looked like a closed murphy bed. Whether the window idea was a good one or not we didn’t know, but we did know we had to get rid of the cabinet.

Just before my Dad’s first visit to the house, we off-handedly asked if he could cut a hole in the wall and add a window. We even offered up Anuj as an apprentice to facilitate the job. He said no problem, not only would he do it that weekend, he just so happened to have an 80-year-old window sitting in his garage that he salvaged from a local church a while back. He didn’t know what he’d do with it, but he stored it anyway. Now here was the perfect opportunity to put it to use. This is my Dad.

So he and his wife Barbara arrived, devised a game plan, and promptly dispatched his new apprentice Anuj to tear down the fugly linen cabinet.

Anuj preps the wall

And then my Dad proceeded to drill a hole through the wall for the new (old) window.

You know how when you’re hanging pictures, you look for the stud ’cause it’s strong and basically holds your house together? Well, in order to get the hole where we wanted it, my Dad had to power saw through a couple of studs. This is very loud and very scary. Because when you’re downstairs scrubbing the refrigerator with your step-mother and the entire house starts shaking, you know this is not some simple DIY project. My Dad got the hole cut, and then had to re-frame the wall so the window had something to hold it in place. So he measured, cut and nailed in a couple of 2x4s we picked up at Home Depot (note: we hadn’t discovered the local lumberyard yet, which is now our first stop when we need wood. Home Depot is great, but my Dad assures us the wood is inferior. We find this advice fits well into our semi-speculative ‘corporations are evil’ position).

The window is placed

Positioning the window.

Dad puts the window in

Dad displaying the window (from inside the office) before it’s framed.

Two proud fathers

The job took longer than we thought. There was all the sawing, and reframing, and we still had to add the trim. The next day, Anuj’s parents arrived to ‘bless’ our new home. They couldn’t believe how hard my Dad was working and were convinced we were terrible, slave-driving children. We did feel a little terrible, ’cause it was a much bigger undertaking than we first imagined. But here’s the thing about my Dad: he likes doing projects. He’d much rather spend his weekend installing an interior window than chatting over a cup of tea. I did not inherit those genes. I prefer to hold that cup of tea and point out ‘you missed a spot’. My Dad is much more tolerant of these comments than Anuj is. For one thing, my Dad rarely misses a spot, so I tend to stay away from him when he’s working. But his apprentice – he’s still learning, isn’t he? So as the homeowner, it’s my responsibility to monitor the work. So when I find myself hanging around Anuj’s corner of operations mentally composing some constructive ‘feedback’, he’ll shoot me a dirty look and tell me to go find another refrigerator to scrub.

Part II of the window project to come tomorrow.

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