Saturday, December 19, 2015

How-to (and How Not To): Refinishing a Mirror

Refinishing this mirror taught me something--don't be afraid to just try something! I didn't know exactly what look I was going for, or how to do it. The results the first time? Not my favorite. But that was okay--I just tried something different. And it worked.

When we bought our project house, it came with a few bonus things that were actually pretty decent: a huge, heavy seven-drawer wooden desk that my son promptly claimed, a mid-century mod round end table that goes great in my formal living room (you'll see that later), and this mirror.

The mirror is huge and ornate and . . . gold. Now I'm no decorator, but if the re-turn in the jewelry world from primarily silver-colored metals to gold is any indication, gold and brass fixtures may be on their way back into decorating. Or maybe not. But in my world, I'm not there yet.

The gold color had to go. But I was willing to experiment before ditching the whole thing. I mean it was the perfect size for the entry, so why not try a few things first?

My biggest mistake in refinishing this mirror is not writing down what I did. I knew I was going to write this post, but I thought I would remember everything. It was a simple enough project, so why wouldn't I remember? Yeah, except that it's been a couple of months and I've had several projects between now and then. The pictures above and below here show the first try. I think I did a dry brush of white primer (I used Zinsser 1-2-3) over the gold plastic. I used primer knowing I was going to do another finish over top, so I didn't worry about it being matte.

After the primer, I used some mahogany wood gel stain. At first I really liked it. I liked how the dark highlighted the intricate parts. I kind of liked that it looked like carved wood. (Also, if you look close, you can still see the gold.) I hung it on the wall and lived with it for a while, but I decided I couldn't take it. It was too close to the wall color, not giving enough contrast and blending in a little too much. That, and I decided I didn't like the fact that it looked like carved wood.

So on to try number two.

Using gray interior acrylic paint from another project and a foam brush, I dabbed on a fairly even coat. It ended up a little thicker and darker than I expected, but I knew I was going to lighten it up afterwards. Again, I didn't worry about covering everything because seeing all the colors through is part of the charm.

When that was dry, I pulled out the dry brush and primer again. 

I concentrated on highlighting the parts that were raised, leaving the gray in the crevices. This turned out more of what I was looking for.

The final touch was taking off a little of what I'd just put on. Using 220 grit sandpaper, I roughed up the mirror's frame a little, concentrating on the raised parts. I'm happy with the results, but I love the fact that it's such an easy thing to do to change the look just by trying something different. So be brave and just try it!

I think it turned out pretty okay, I think. Would you do something different? Did you like the first try better?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Before & After Renovation of 1974 Entryway

My husband and I have been renovating our new-to-us 1974 Texas ranch style home in our spare time. We both have other full-time gigs (I am a novelist; he's a physical therapist), so the going is a little slow sometimes. But we finally have a room done! So here's the before and after post that's only been six months in the making. (You try renovating an entire house all at one time. Kidding. I'm not worried about how long it is taking. It's still fun!)

So here is our entryway . . .


And After:

Things that didn't change:

  • Tile--Call me strange, but one of the things I like about these 1950-1970s houses in Texas (we have now owned four in West Texas) is this terrazzo tile. It's unique enough, and neutral enough, I want to keep it. It helps ground the home in time--gives it a little retro feel--yet doesn't feel old. It makes me happy.

Terrazzo Tile: Mid-century Mod Miracle Flooring

Things that didn't change (continued):

  • Light fixture
  • Mirror (except color--a blog post about that)
  • Any structure for that matter (except for the addition of the French doors)

Things that did change:

  • Colors of just about everything (except tile)--including the ceiling and trim
  • The wallpaper was textured over (a later blog post will explain why)

Prepped for Texture

Things that did change (continued):

  • French doors added to the formal living room (which I LOVE!)

In addition to the mirror revamp, I had to do something with my entry table, which was way too small. That, too, is another blog post to come, but isn't the piano top cool?

Repurposed piano top into table top. Painted gold mirror.

While we were house hunting, I started a couple of Pinterest boards to collect ideas of how I might renovate, refurbish, or personalize each home. One of the first pins I found became the inspiration for my entryway. I didn't try to recreate it, exactly, but obviously, I took some hints from what the designer had done and incorporated them into my home. Not too bad, right? I wish I could have found the rug, but for the price, mine works A-OK, and ties in the dark table and grout. I like it. Especially when you see it in better light (the backlighting made my entry look a little dark).

From House of Turquoise
And Mine.

Monday, November 30, 2015

My Tour of the 1909 Barton House at the National Ranching Center

Not only are my husband and I updating our 1974 house to our taste, which has been consuming much of my time, but I am also a writer. My current novel in progress centers around a couple renovating a 1921 Craftsman bungalow kit home. When I mentioned this to a friend, she told me there's a kit home at Texas Tech's National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, Texas.

While it turns out she was close but not quite right--it was built from a design ordered from a catalog rather than a mail-ordered kit--I decided to head on over to take a peek anyway. I mean, how often do I get the chance to tour a home over a hundred years old and a mere eleven years older than the one I am learning everything I can about?

The Barton House at the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

When I first went over, I found that the home is not often open to the public, but I was able to make an appointment and visit with the very knowledgeable and patient Robert Tidwell, curator of historical collections. He gave me a personal tour of the Barton House, a 1909 Queen Anne/Eastlake-style mansion and the jewel of the Proctor Historical Park. I was able to explore up close and learn about everything I could think to ask about--from the design to the construction, the flooring to the finishes.

For example, I was surprised to learn they had linoleum at that time (apparently it wasn't unusual: "It's just linseed oil.") and intrigued by the green stained woodwork upstairs (again a typical trend I wasn't aware of). The low banisters and handrails around the staircase and the balcony made me feel tall for once (not bad for someone 5'2") though the high ceilings brought me back to size.

The upstairs landing to the "hidden" staircase from the bedroom below.

Second-floor landing.

There were hidden staircases and curious hatches. (I really wanted to stand on the built-in window seat to peek into those storage spaces, but I refrained. Barely.)

Entrance to the "hidden" staircase from the one bedroom on the main floor to the bedroom right above.

I love the character--the built-in window seat (with full pull-out drawer),
the double closets, and the intriguing "hatches"--okay, they're just storage spaces,
but what's hidden in there now? Something that's been hidden for decades?

My favorite parts of the house were the leaded glass window in the living room and the stately transom over the front door in the majestic foyer. The heart of the home really was that entryway with its stairwell that curved slightly at the base, and the gorgeous butler's pantry to welcome guests with refreshment. Mr. Tidwell pointed out where the phone had been installed, and I could picture the home adapting as time marched on, though that kitchen obviously struggled to keep up--I couldn't imagine using it.

Isn't this a gorgeous window?

Entryway butler's pantry pass-through.

I found myself imagining generations of the Barton family growing up in that home. How beautiful a large Christmas tree must have looked in the big front windows. Or picturing the family playing jacks on the front porch with the adults sitting in rockers, lemonade glasses in hand while they enjoyed the shade. It helped too, when Mr. Tidwell told me about '50s wallpaper and '70s shag carpet. I just loved the history and joy that home must have been to many.

How nice this gorgeous porch must have been on summer evenings!

The entire home has been beautifully backdated to what it had been at construction in 1909 except for the second story bathroom which is mostly empty right now. (This makes sense as the home is rarely open for visitors, especially the second floor.) Mr. Tidwell pointed out slight variations the builder incorporated in his home, deviations from the original plan created by architect George Barber, mostly consisting of flipping the kitchen and maid's quarters. Quite a logical change, when it comes down to it.

The house as advertised in a catalog. Property of Texas Tech and the National Ranching Heritage Center.

I was even able to take a peek into the attic. The attic stairs are quite steep and shallow tucked into the back corner of the second story, but that added to the fun. I lifted the attic cover, holding onto it so it wouldn't flop over on its hinges. The attic is HUGE! They easily could have finished another couple of rooms and still had room for storage areas. The dormers let in oodles of light. With it so light and open, only having some beams holding a couple of ladders (one old wooden one and a modern aluminum one) next to each other, it was enchanting. A little girl could have had fun playing house up there. Mr. Tidwell told me there were stories of the town holding school up there but the family assured him it was just rumor. But it would make a great Wuthering Heights type of house. Or Mansfield Park.

Attic stairs. Aren't they cool? And yet creepy if you had to sleep near them, am I right?

Overall, it was great for research for me. Just to see details in person. The woodworking--carving, coloring, staining, built-ins and pass-throughs. The fireplaces and tile. The linoleum. The height of the ceilings and expanse of the rooms. It was fascinating to hear about the transition from gas to electric light fixtures, and how the water was plumbed and heated.

Pass-through between dining room and kitchen.

If visiting a house like this is interesting to you, I suggest heading over to the National Ranching Heritage Center. There are several different types of structures of various ages open and free to the public. The staff at the center are helpful and friendly--as well as extremely knowledgeable. Here's a link if you'd like to learn more.

Property of the National Ranching Heritage Center, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.

I look forward to being able to put my research into my work. Now if I could just get access to a kit home. Anyone know of one open somewhere near Lubbock, Texas?

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Before "Tour" of a 1970s Remodel (Part 5)

The Rest of the House

This is the last of the series of my before pictures. I needed to make sure all the pics are up before I start showing some of the afters . . .

Half Bath:

It's always great to have a half bath for guests, but this one is a little tucked away. It'll still work though. Another nice thing about it is that it is situated near the back door and garage and completely over tile to get there, so it's nice for clean-up after being outside.

Half bath with more lovely wallpaper and interesting molding.

I still haven't decided what I'm going to do to redecorate. Update the towel bars and toilet paper holder as well as door and drawer pulls. The wallpaper will need to come down because it is peeling. This is the one bathroom where the cultured marble vanity countertop will stay. At least for now. So that means I need to decide if the cupboards will stay the same color or be painted white as I am systematically doing to the rest of the trim in the house.

Utility Room:

Nothing much exciting here. It's fairly small actually. With the door to the garage and the door between the utility room and the hallway opening towards each other, there's barely enough room to pass between if they aren't completely open.

Utility room so huge I can barely take a picture.

One nice thing is the nook across from the dryer where we will do something to store shoes and jackets.

This nook will eventually house our shoes and jackets.

Oh, and the world's ugliest door to the garage. A bonus I hadn't expected: I can tell if the garage door is open because of the window. Not to worry, though, I got rid of the curtain ASAP.

Back Patio and Backyard:

One thing we absolutely love about this house is the back patio and backyard. Not only do we have our own trees, which are nice, but the view over the back fence is of even more trees. There's a gorgeous seven foot privacy fence which is fabulous.

And this is only half of the backyard. Less than half, actually. But look at all those trees!

And a full, covered back patio that will be great for breakfast outside on lazy summer mornings.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Before "Tour" of a 1970s Remodel (Part 4): Master & En Suite Bath

The Master Bedroom & Bath:

Master Bedroom:

Though from this picture you can see that the master bedroom lacks any zing, I do like the fact that it is secluded from the rest of the bedrooms. It is not far off the kitchen and positioned between the back patio door and laundry room (with garage access), so unless the kiddos go out the front door, there's no escaping (or coming in past curfew) without Mom & Dad's knowledge.

Master bedroom: view from the hallway.

The combination of dark wood window sills and off-white (almond, like everything else in the house) shutters offer the only interest. Oh, and the beautiful mauve carpet. Nice, huh?

I might have mentioned before that each of the bedrooms has its own cute little (okay, not so little) light switch. They make a statement in their uniqueness, but a little too kitsch than the vision of my house includes.

Also, every bedroom also has an intercom--and none of them work. They too will be removed and the wall repaired. [After we do this and live in the house for several months, we have discovered it is the quietest house I have ever lived in. The intercoms might actually have been helpful in communicating with my teenager holed up in his bedroom. But then again, there's texting now that didn't exist in the 1970s.]

I like the arch into the vanity area, but not the fact that there's no door. My husband's first thought was cutting out the arch and inserting a door, but I suggested building a sliding barn door. Yep, that's the plan. It just isn't high priority except when my husband turns on the light to get ready for work while I'm still sleeping.

View of Master Vanity from the Bedroom.

While it is 1970s-size and maybe not the biggest by today's standards, but it's actually quite a bit bigger than my 1997 house I lived in last, so I'm excited. It's more than adequate.

Not obvious from the image, on the left, there are two clothes rods and on the right is one (for longer clothes).

The bathroom and vanity are pretty dark, which I'm not loving, so it will change. The shape of the cabinet on the vanity was something else I wasn't happy with at first--the fact that it is recessed at the bottom. While it's still not my favorite--I feel like I have to bend down even more to get to the bottom drawers--it wasn't exactly in the budget to replace them. When we bought the house, we thought we would replace them, but with their size, we would have had to do something custom, and it just wasn't going to happen. So hey, it's all good. It does the job. It's in good shape. Works for me. If we do a little paint update.

Notice the wallpaper, dark paneling, ratty carpet, and interesting molding pattern.

Interesting shape of the cabinet.

How about this vanity top--definitely original to the house.

1974 cultured marble veined in pea green. It's a classic!

Even has a matching shower.

Matching 1974 cultured marble step-down tub/shower. Ick!

I'm pretty sure this was the first time I had ever seen a shower/bath? like this one. I'm not even sure what it's called. It's got the same cultured marble green-veined surround as the vanity. It's a step-down which I guess could be used as a tub as well, but it just felt claustrophobic and weird to me.
When I met the new neighbors a few months after we'd moved in (they'd been away), the first thing they asked was what we did with the shower. Yeah, it's legendary in the neighborhood. And the first place we started working.