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.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The "Before" Tour of a 1970s Remodel (Part 3)

The Bedrooms & Hall Bath

Front Bedroom (that Connects to Bathroom):

  • The Windows: This room is by far the best bedroom, mostly because of those amazing front windows!
Amazing front windows in this bedroom!

Attached bathroom.

  • Closet: Situated behind the bedroom door, it leaves the door a bit in the way. I'm afraid to paint it because I know my son will do no better than the previous children/teens who inhabited the room and apparently didn't close the closet door, thus catching it on the bedroom door. A problem with no solution, I fear, as I don't want to rearrange anything.
  • Connection to the Bathroom: Nothing to say about it other than "Yay!" I know a Jack-and-Jill bathroom connects two bedrooms, but what is it called when it combines one bedroom and the hallway?
  • Light Switch Plate: Notice how cute? Each bedroom had them--either cats or bunnies. I can imagine a little girl over the moon about being allowed to pick out her own! But as my kids are all older and it's not my style, they won't be staying.

Hall and connected bathroom.

Hall Bathroom:

This is the view from the doorway in the front bedroom. From this angle, you can see a lot of things (even me):
  • Wallpaper: Galore. It even smells mildew-y. Yuk.
  • Dark Wood: Overpowering. That will be a bugger to change, I can tell.
  • Double Sinks: Always nice, even though only one of our kids still lives at home. Though there are always holidays and visits and the occasional summer away from college, right?

Dark paneling, wallpaper, cultured marble, carpet, and interesting molding pattern.

  • Tile: I love that it's white. Classic. And can stay. One less project!
  • Carpet: Why did anyone ever think this was a good idea? I guess it does feel good on the feet, but it smells nasty and I couldn't possibly wrap my head around replacing it with more carpet in this area. It's asking for trouble.

The shower room even has carpet.

  • Countertop and Fixtures: I love all the space, but the countertop's rust stains and gold streaks make it look too dated for me. The fixtures have long-since been crusted over with hard water deposits and don't run smoothly. One of them actually sprays sideways, which might come in handy. Maybe.

Even if it weren't completely outdated, the rust stains don't help.

Middle Bedroom:

  • A Perfectly Suitable Room

Wooden windows--with aluminum on the outside.

  • With a Perfectly Suitable Walk-In Closet

Decent walk-in closet for a bedroom.


  • Brick Wall: The backside of the fireplace has the original (unpainted) brick wall that I LOVE! Isn't it beautiful?
  • Closet Space: This hallway is LONG! It also has considerable storage with a closet on each end and another closet across from the door opening to the family room. I'm not sure how to organize everything, but it will be great to have that much space!

I LOVE this brick wall (other side of the fireplace) in the hallway.

Back Bedroom (Our Office):

  • Office Space: It appears the previous owners also used this room as a home office as we plan to do. Which is nice because that means the phone and internet connections are there.
  • Windows: These are the only ones. I wish the wall to the right had some as well. Maybe I should add them?

This will be our office, but the desk, left from the previous owner, has been relocated. Go figure.

  • Double Closets: Shallow but plentiful storage space for which I've got a great plan. You'll have to check back for that one.

The only room with two closets rather than a walk-in. Just you wait to see what we've got planned. . .

Monday, November 16, 2015

The "Before" Tour of a 1970s Remodel (Part 2)

Family Living Areas--the Heart of the Home

Family Room:

This was the room I loved most when I looked at the house.
  • Cathedral Ceilings: I love the ceilings and the beams. I hate that they are almost lost as they blend in with the rest of the ceiling--again, exactly WHY is everything in this house (except for the wallpaper) almond-colored? Don't worry, I'll be tackling those almost first thing. I've transformed painted beams to look like wood again, and I can't wait to do it again.
  • Light Fixtures: The ceiling fan--uh, no. Not an oak and brass fan. Too 80s. So why exactly is it that I'm okay with 60s and 70s, but the 80s and 90s, not so much. Case in point, the hanging fruit lamp in the corner, I think it's kind of cool. Not that it's staying. I've already knocked my head a few times.

I LOVE the fireplace and built-ins! Not so sure of the fruit lamp or flowered wallpaper.

  • The Fireplace: Isn't that THE best? Especially flanked with the built-in bookcases. I little subtle color to help them stand out.
  • Step-Down: Honestly, I kind of like the fact that this room is a step-down. It's characters typical of the era. Despite our neighbors' advice and an arthritic cat who struggles occasionally, the step-down is staying. One step is so much better than the two flights of stairs from our last home.

Nice bones, but very boring all the same almond color.


  • Waffle Cabinet Doors: I'm not sure if it was the pattern on the cabinet doors that first caught my eye or the bold blue countertops, but I was convinced the cabinet doors had to go. We'll see. Budget-wise, that may not be the best idea. I'll have to look into options. Anyone have a cheap solution?
  • Bi-fold Divider: The bi-fold doors over the sink to close off the family room/kitchen pass-through.
  • Doors to Dining Room: I like them. Classic. (And that gives you a peek into the dining room that I forgot to take a picture of.)
  • Tile: Not exactly my favorite, but not bad. If it's something we can keep, we plan on making it part of the interior design.

Blue counters, waffle-patterned cabinet doors, flowered wallpaper, and fruit on the backsplash tiles.

Light Fixtures: Yes, those are florescent lights in the kitchen, And the ugly "flower?" hanging lamp in the breakfast area. Gotta go.

Can you say 1980? Everything about this . . . the popcorn ceiling, what is that lamp?, wallpaper AND wallpaper border. Easy updates!

  • Layout: I'm a little confused how to use the breakfast room area. I feel it is too small to actually use, especially since it is the crossroads of the entire house. The breakfast bar may need to suffice. But then what do I do to decorate the rest of the room?
  • Wallpaper: Lovely, isn't it? Maybe at one point, but yeah, no. Not staying. But the paneling will.

Although plantation shutters are nice for easy privacy, it sure makes the room darker.