February 28, 2008

Our Bungalow Tree House

My dad decided that our kids needed a tree fort and built them THIS! I think he originally had a simple platform with canvas roof in mind... well... one thing led to another... and we ended up with a bungalow fort.

He built it at the ravine edge with Rosman Creek below as seen in the winter pic. It's a great site for it. Our house sits up a little higher on the hillside so we get a nice view of the fort and creek.

Dad had some extra cedar laying around... I found some used cedar at a Habitat Restore Store. A friend of mine had some used cedar shakes that he was going to use for kindling. Handrail made from old water piping we yanked from the wall. Support timbers from jack posts I used when adding new support beams in our basement. Lots of hand-me-downs in this thing. The kids love it. We love it. And we love dad & grandpa for building it for us.

February 27, 2008

2 bathrooms... 1 quiet & powerful fan

When you have four young kids, you have to be ever vigilant... always on alert... ear to the ground. What are they up to? Where are they at?

Thanks to our super quiet, but powerful Fantech ventilator, we can even monitor the gang while running the bathroom fan... which is impossible with most fans available. Honestly, if it weren't for the indicator light on the timer, you would not know it was running. Although a bit pricey, I'm really glad I put this thing in.

In addition to being able to hear what's happening around the house while running the fan, it is also really important to get rid of all the steam (and other gasses) generated in the bathroom. Let's just say, with this thing, you don't want to leave any loose toilet paper or small children lying about. I may have oversized it just a bit.

I have two bathrooms upstairs that this single fan takes care of. I mounted it in a utility closet, ran flex duct to each of the bathrooms and connected a butterfly damper with a rubber seal that closes off when not in use. The fan then vents out the bottom (I think it's 8 inch) and runs out a side wall.

It's controlled by a digital timer with timed presets in each bathroom.

Another nice thing is that if the fan ever needs servicing, you don't have to tear into your ceilings to get at it or worry that a replacement unit won't fit in the same ceiling cut out. This thing hangs in a closet.

February 21, 2008

Hey... that's our fireplace in the Rookwood catalog

In an earlier post I mentioned that I discovered an abandoned dumbwaiter shaft in the house. Upon removing the walls that had been built around the shaft by PO, I found a stack of green glazed tiles that were used on the floor in front of the living room fireplace. They appear to have been cast offs from the mason who initially installed the fireplace in 1909. There was a indicia imprinted on the back which I didn't recognize, so I etched it onto a piece of paper and googled all the major tile manufactures logos of the period. I quicklly identified the tiles as Rookwood.

I sent a photo of the fireplace to the newly regrouped Rookwood Pottery Company in Cincinnati, OH to see if they could tell me anything about it. After several months, and another inquiry, they responded with this reply:

"Your fireplace is directly out of a Rookwood Pottery Company catalog from August 1, 1912 page 49 (See attached). It was originally sold for $82.00 not including hearth. Today the field tile on the floor would be sold for $105/sq foot and the entire design would cost about $4,300. These particular tiles would not have a mold number on the back, they were simply marked with the Rookwood symbol due to the design of the mold. The home owner of the house must of picked the color themselves, it is a color that would reflect the bungalow design of the house and still be highly sought after today by Arts and Crafts enthusiasts. What a beautiful fireplace! If you are open to sending us one of your extra tiles, we would love to have one. It would be used only for research on how these particular tiles were made in this year. I understand completely if you would rather keep them for yourself. Hope this provides you with some interesting information.

Best regards,

Suzanne Blackburn
The Rookwood Pottery Company

2619 Glendora Ave
Cincinnati, Ohio 45219
P 513 381 2510
F 513 281 2004

I've attached an image of the catalog page below. It was so bizarre to see OUR fireplace in a catalog from so many years ago. I imagined how it must have been for Mr. & Mrs. Robinson (original owners) to be sitting at the table looking through this catalog and bantering over which fireplace they would like installed. Anyway, I was very pleased to have this information.

Side notes:
- The configuration of the benches on either side of the fireplace is original, although a bit odd in that they extend beyond the face of the fireplace.
- They are indeed cabinets and not windows on either side of the fireplace, in that there is a hallway behind the fireplace
- The grey tubes on the arms of the furniture are pieces of foam pipe insulation used to soften the edges and sharp corners (we have 4 young children - need I say more?!)
- Originally there were two gas pipes plumbed into the wall above the mantel for wall hung gas sconces
- We've never used this fireplace. Although it appears to be in reasonable condition, it should be inspected, which costs money, which takes money away from other priorities. I have it capped off outside on the chimney.
- While cleaning out the ash pit in the basement below this fireplace, I found a old contractors tape measure (obviously dropped accidentally)
- There is a hidden dumbwaiter shaft accessed by a false panel in the back of the benches to the right. I can only imagined that they thought this would be helpful for hauling up wood to the fireplace. Judging by the lack of wear on the basket, I don't think it was used much. Probably too awkward of a location. I'll get pictures for you sometime.
- Excuse our lack of attention to decorating. We are so preoccupied with raising our 4 children and renovations, that knickknacs and doylies don't get a whole lot of attention around our place at this stage in our life.
- All of the Oak you see was completely sanded down and refinished in the original stain color. Believe it or not, there is a lot of green pigment in it.
- Although the fireplace itself extends to the floor of the basement, the skirt/floor area in front (I should know what this area is called) is poured concrete with tile. So it is supported by 2 very large brick pillars in the basement.
- The area of the living room that the fireplace is built in, is called an inglenook (orginally designed to capture the heat generated by the fire and provide a warmer place to park your cold body) Has medieval influence.

February 19, 2008

Secret Passageway

I would have loved one of these when I was a kid! One of the bedrooms upstairs has a couple large walk-in closets, one of which backs up to attic space in the eves of the house. We cut a hole in the back of one of the closets (as pictured) and will make some kind of discreet door. The cool thing is that, at the other end of the "secret passage" is another existing door that leads into the closet of another bedroom.

Of course, between the kids telling their friends about their "secret" passage, and me blabbing about it on the blog, it's not so "secret" anymore!

Actually, we do have one more secret passage in the house. I didn't know it was there until I began renovations. As I was sanding some built-ins, I noticed some odd markings in the surface where something had rubbed on occasion. I started looking things over and sure enough there was a hidden door that pivoted at that spot. It revealed a what I believe was an old abandoned dumb-waiter shaft. I'll post some pics of this sometime. Fun, huh!

February 14, 2008

The most colorful wall in the house!

I take these shots for future reference. With my luck, I know I'll be tearing into them again someday to fix something! Got to looking at this upstairs bath pic and realized it's quite a colorful wall. I think I used every color in my crayon box!

Points of interest:
- The black streaks running down the lathe is from huge attic fire in October of 1916. We know this because a couple of the painters who came in to repaint the repairs signed their names and left this note on an attic wall.
- The black box to the left is for an in-wall heater to help take the chill off after a winter shower. Am going to put it on a timer so that it doesn't accidentally get left on. Thought about infloor heater under tile, but just don't have the energy to investigate ONE MORE THING!

February 13, 2008

Kinda tight in here. No more!

We moved from a house with just a few hundred square feet into this 7000 square foot behemoth. Even though we now have room to roam, we find ourselves all congregating in the smallest room of the house. I guess there's comfort in familiarity and coziness.

By the way, the above photo is our youngest daughter checking out the interior improvements of her older sister's American Girl doll's camping tent.

February 11, 2008

Very Expensive Icicles

After thousands of dollars spent on insulation, I still have ICICLES! It is so disheartening. A guy tries to do his best. I researched and interviewed until I was blue... failure! I could've bought a lot of heat tape for the amount of money I've got into insulation in this place (or taken a nice cruise to a warm "ice-free" place).

One of the culprits is that, in place, the Icynene spray foam appears to have shrunk some and pulled away from the roofing & framing - which is not good. The other issue is that they scrape the icynene away from the bottom of the rafters so that drywall can be attached. In my opinion, this wicks the heat up to the roof surface and melts the snow. I just bought a few hundred more dollars of polystyrene foam board and will attach it in these areas to try to insulate these rafter faces. Will see what happens.

I also had they icenyne added to an exterior wall of an upstairs bathroom in attempt to keep it a little toastier.

I didn't insulate any walls in the house in that most every wall is covered in huge windows -- OVER 80 OF THEM -- in this place. I figured what little wall space there was would not benefit from insulation in that most of the house is covered in glass.

February 7, 2008

Not Quite As Gothic

After thinking about it, I figured I should show you the fixtures that were used in place of the original chandalier in the last post. Part of me feels like I should have used the original fixture, but it was just too midevial for our taste.

As long as I save the original, do you think it's an OK compromise?

Here's a couple pics of the ceiling light & wall sconces.

Antique Road Show Comes to Town

The Antique Road Show is coming to town, so I hauled this old light out. I thought I'd email them a photo and see if it's worth hauling in. Probably not. It's fun to dream. Hey - - it's my birthday today - - I'm allowed to dream today!

It originally hung in our dining room, but PO had stashed it in the basement. I know I should have hung it back in its spot but it sooooo gothic/medieval looking... kind of spooky. It is non-ferrous, so it's maybe plated brass or copper. Another reason I didn't hang it, is that weighs almost 70 pounds! I just didn't have the energy to beef up the anchoring utility box when I was redoing the dining room ceiling. Another, another reason was that I would have had to rewire it, which seemed a little daunting at the time... kind of like ship building in a bottle.

I also have 4 wall sconces that match it. They were originally plumbed for gas but converted later to electric. Still have the pipes leading into the back of each of them. Our house was built in 1909, so electricity was not completely reliable. Consequently, the house was built with a smattering of gas fixtures as a backup to the electric.

I emailed an antique lighting dealer a while back and they said the style was "Tudor Revival" and that this particular style was known as a "theatre light." He offered me $500. I don't think I could sell it, in that it was original to the house. Of course, multiple zeros after that 5 could persuade me I suppose.

This dealer told me there was not much of a market for this style light, what do you think? Would you hang it in your house?

February 4, 2008

Butler's Pantry

This is the butler's pantry, which you pass through to get from the kitchen to the dining room. The copper sink is original. The PO had a chrome Delta 1970's special here. We replaced it with this copper one you see here.

All the cabinets were completely stripped of the original paint inside & out. The window in front of the sink seems to be original. It looks into the enclosed sun porch. I don't know what the purpose of the exterior window is, but it matches other originals in the house. Maybe they kept the sunporch windows open at times... which would explain the 2 floor drains in the tile floor of this room.

Anyway... we're happy with the way the pantry came out. Originally, the large wall of cupboards had sliding doors. Inside were slots where, we're assuming, they stored the leaves of the dining room table. This pantry offers great storage. There's even a hidden panel to the left of the sink. The door slides up into the wall using pullies and counter weights. Inside are narrow shelves.

The butler or house staff that evidently use to reside here were called with an electronic devise that plugged into the floor in the middle of the dining room (under the table). A portion of the basement appears to have been plastered and finished to accommodate house staff. The house staff has been greatly diminished over the years... down to 0! At least we have the pantry available if we ever win the lotto and hire a butler some day!