Friday, October 5, 2012

Dining Room Windows In

It's been a busy summer!  We took on a bit more than we could finish and with the hot hot hot weather in August and September, it was tough to get out there and work.  Not that all the time was spent lounging on the couch.  I had a method - 15 minutes in the blazing sun, 15 minutes prone on the couch gasping for air like a fish out of water - repeat until you are about to die, then do it all again the next day.  Anyway, here is an in-progress picture of the new (old) dining room windows.  Well, not that there is a dining room, per se, OK let's call it the dining area of the living room.
As was the case in the front door and sidelights, these windows were part of the salvage from the 1922 Fullerton house.  Our contractor Jeff built the jambs and did all the trim work and hung the windows.  Now I just have to stain and varnish inside and caulk and paint outside.
I got started on the painting today with doing some priming.  Finally some nice cool weather to paint by!  I think it is going to be 78 degrees today, which is much better than the 99 degrees we were having throughout September : - (
My husband and I had to remove the original 1915 shingles so as to put all the necessary weather guard stuff in place around the windows (Moist Stop and of course black paper).  Removing the old shingles is tricky because they are very fragile at this point, and this being the sunny side of the house, they are not in wonderful shape.
They are not actually shingles, but are called Split Barn Shakes and of course no one makes the 36 inches long by 6 inches wide version anymore.  You can have them custom split, but when I talked to the guy about it a couple of years ago he said I had to order it in the spring and then they would go into the woods and cut the trees and split the shakes.  Needless to say, it was pricey!  I've seen pictures of the Riordan Mansion and their shingles are looking pretty weathered, so I figured as long as I keep things caulked in the gaps I may as well go with that Riordan Mansion look : - )
Yeah, like my shack is anything like the Riordan Mansion!  Oh well, it is my mini-mansion.  You can see the original color of the paint-stain on some of these shakes as we used whichever side was best.  You can also see what a nice pinkish brown color the old brown paint ended up - ugh.  So tomorrow is caulking, Sunday is painting and thank goodness I have Monday off for a second coat of paint.
Obviously more shingles to replace and work to do on the kitchen siding, but that's what the weekends are for, right?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wood Window Screens

Finally, finally, finally we are finished with the sidelight window screens.  Who would think this would be such a challenging project?  Of course I have found that when trying to do things "as they were done in the past," one can find oneself in one pickle after another.  The first pickle on this particular project was when I got home from picking up my screens from Coppa Woodworking, I found that the front door screen was three inches too short!  My husband couldn't believe I didn't bring a tape measure along to measure them before driving them all the way home, but it just didn't occur to me that they could be wrong.  And all of this is happening in July, so we are sweating it (literally) because with no screens on the front door and sidelights and three cats to keep inside, it can get pretty hot.  So the front door screen is stored in the garage until I could get back up to San Pedro, most likely when I order screens for the windows in the dining room.

That left the sidelight screens to install, so we got right after it, planing them down for an exact fit...
Lots of sanding and then putting on the screen hanging hardware from Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage.  Those cute little new-old-stock hangers that I was so excited about hang from the trim above the screen and on the top of the screen ...  unless, like us, you have a reveal on your trim above the screen, in which case they don't hang at all.  So after pondering this latest problem and with my husband giving me the "why didn't you think of this before you ordered this hardware" look, I came up with the plan to put a small piece of moulding in along the top of the screen below the pesky reveal on the trim and to attach the screen hanger there.  I painted the moulding to match the screen so visually it will all blend and called it good enough.

Then after much priming and painting and more painting, I tackled putting the screening on.  I wanted to use the copper/bronze screening to be period appropriate and was looking forward to finally seeing it after it having been sitting in a box since it got delivered.  Well, it is pretty stuff!
But not so fun to work with, maybe gloves would have been a good idea.  Anyway, I did get it all stretched out pretty flat and stapled on, but I find this screening tends to break pretty easy where stapled and I'm wondering how it will hold up to my cats, especially to little Morticia the little black kitty that likes to climb screens.  So before I do any more screening with the copper screen, we will test these out to see if they are cat-compatible.
And just to show that something as simple as a wood screen can be fraught with difficulties, we found that the screen frames were put together with long screws, which when trying to attach the hanging hardware, happened to be right in the way of the hanging hardware screws.  Ugh.  So my husband had to take out the top screws on the screen frames and use wooden dowels instead - and then finally, I was able to attach the hanging hardware.
So up the screens go with the hook and eye latches installed at the bottom.  Whew, two screens down, 14 more to go : - )

Oh and I also got new house numbers in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh style font from The Craftsman Home Connection.  They call them Glasgow and they are copper.
My husband added spacers so the numbers have a nice stand off of about 3/4" so when the light hits them, they cast a pretty shadow.  Fun!  He used a 3/16" brass tube that he cut with a pipe cutter into little 3/4" lengths.  Then we strung the little spacers on a wire and I painted them the same color as the porch post (sage green).  Next we used a thin nail that was long enough to go through the house numbers, the spacer and into the porch post.  Now all the porch needs is some fresh paint and some flagstones on the flat surfaces, and I need to finish my mosaic to go on the stair risers.  Maybe next weekend I can start on all of that : - ) 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Staining Oak Woodwork

I fully intended to get started with staining the interior front door and sidelight woodwork this last weekend, but after trying out various stains and combinations of stains and multiple layers of various combinations of stains all week, I knew I needed to take a break and figure out what the hell I was doing.

I want really dark woodwork - dark like you're lost in the haunted forest at night with no moon dark.
My inspiration is the house in that movie Practical Magic.  Of course it is a witch's house and the dark-stained floors and woodwork are perfect for that mysterious "witches live here" old mansion look.
But I'm dealing with oak woodwork - some of it salvaged 1922 old growth oak and some of it new.  I'm finding that oak doesn't like to stain as dark as I would like.
I tried mixing Ebony in with the Dark Walnut and that wasn't getting the right effect.  Then I tried a light wash of watered down black paint followed by Dark Walnut and that was getting closer.  After doing some research on the internet, I think I may have the solution.  I was reading that to get a really dark stain on oak, one can use a water-based dye followed by a stain.  So I ordered two of the dyes, a Dark Walnut and one that looked even darker, Dark Brown, because even darker is what I want : - )

So I had to tell the husband to settle down because he just wants the staining to start - just get the thing done!  He will just have to have some patience.  Needless to say, he is not obsessed with the fiddly details like I am.

Oh and I ordered a wood screen door for the front and also wood screens for the sidelights.  Our door guy, Jeff, was supposed to make these for us before he left for another job, but you know how that goes.  Luckily, I found Coppa Woodworking and they are in Redondo Beach, so I can drive over and get them when they are finished.  I ordered the most simple wood screen door (so as not to detract from the nice diamond-paned pattern on the front door) in Doug Fir, unfinished, with no screening.  Same for the sidelights - just the frames, then we will prime, paint and use the copper/bronze screening roll that I purchased and put half-round moulding over where the screening attaches.

I found some great spring-loaded hinges from my new favorite long-distance salvage store - Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage up in Oregon.  I discovered them when I was searching for window screen hardware and they had 11 pairs of original Stanley window screen hangers - new old stock - with a cute little bag of original screws.
And only $3 a pair!  Of course I bought all of the pairs.

Screen door hardware from House of Antique hardware is on the way and that should be all I need.  Somehow anytime I order something from House of Antique hardware, it is on back-order.  I am beginning to wonder if they wait until they get an order before getting their stock : - )  I'm sure that's not the case.  I really wanted to use some salvage screen door hardware that I had - the knob and mortise lock, etc, but unfortunately the mortise lock was broken and unfixable, so I had to go with the repro stuff.  David is happy though because the repro one won't have to be mortised in like the old one would.  He dodged a bullet on that one.
 Pretty PD : - )

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Work Starts on the Front Door and Sidelights


A friend of mine with a little 1930s Tudor house in Hemet, CA gave me the phone number of a guy he used to put in a new (old) back door at his house.  Jeff came highly recommended to do a great job hanging doors and installing old mortise locks – just the things we needed for our front door project.  When Jeff came out to take a look at the job, he was really enthusiastic and said he really wanted to work on our project and it would probably take about 2 days to get the crappy old door and sidelights out and the new salvaged door and sidelights in.  My husband David and I had already built the jambs, but something went horribly wrong with the door jamb somewhere in the last two years as it sat gathering dust in the garage and by the time Jeff started the project, it didn’t fit and he had to build a new one.  Maybe it was the flood, or perhaps incorrect measurements, we’re blaming it on the flood.
 Working on the door a couple of years ago

Anyway, Jeff got started and the first thing he did was demo the old door and sidelights and then he started doing whatever it was he did.  I don’t know because I was at work.  David was at home herding cats because we just got a new kitten and our cat Pandora hates the cute little baby kitty, so keeping the cats in separate places is a must.
 And that’s kind of tough with a big gaping hole in the living room where your front door used to be.  So mid-week Jeff is grumbling about working on old houses and the words “can of worms” were used as I recall, but things started coming together and I came home on the fourth day to sidelights, but still no door.  Day five the door was installed and man oh man, we were excited!  I had stripped the door and sidelights a couple of years ago and put the colored glass at the top in the diamond panes and to finally get to see the full effect with the afternoon sunlight was well worth the wait.
 So after 7 days (things really do take 3 times as long and cost 3 times as much!), we had our new old front door and sidelights with hardware.  Yay!
Time for me to get out there and caulk and prime and paint, which I did all last weekend.  I spent a couple of hours at the Benjamin Moore store working with the lovely Connie trying to match the original brown of the old stained shingles.  If only someone hadn’t painted the house yellow!  There’s no going back to the beautiful old stain now.  My only hope was to find a paint color that would look close.  Finally Connie tried using Van Buren Brown, but she left out all of the white which was killing the color and making it too dull and gray and, voila!  Success!   A nearly perfect match!  I got it in flat, to further attempt to look more like the original stain.  I was so excited because although we painted over the ugly yellow back in 2000, the house has always been kind of a chocolate brown house ever since.  I love chocolate, but not on my house : - )  Finally, a nice dark brown that works.

For the trim, I used Brookside Moss (also from Benjamin Moore) – it is this crazy yellow/green color that is really lively and kind of quirky/artisty and I absolutely love it.  I paired it with my original sage green color on the sash and door, Dragonfly Wing (a Home Depot color that I had mixed up at Benjamin Moore because I like their paint better).
So the yellow/green and the slightly darker grey/green look great together and pick up the colors in the front yard, especially the cactus along the driveway – oh and the color of my cat, Pandora’s eyes : - )
I plan on painting the house the dark brown, original shingle color and I will also paint the gable fascia and side trim that dark brown and just have the green combo on the doors and windows and a little bit on the porch.  I like that look where the gable and side trim don’t stand out, especially because my gable is so unremarkable – there’s no point in calling attention to it – yawn.
Next weekend will be the second coat of paint and hopefully a start on staining the woodwork on the inside.  Stay tuned …

A Little History

My house is a little (1,100 square foot) cottage that started life on one of the ranchos of old San Juan Capistrano.
Some say it may have been a bunkhouse on the ranch – no one is really sure just what it was used for.  I like to imagine it was used by an artist as a little art studio.  A lot of the California Impressionists used to stay at the local ranches and paint on location.  But I digress …  It was owned by the Ross Family and in 1931, David and Iza Ross had the little house moved to its current location a couple of blocks away from the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission.
I believe the house was just over 700 square feet originally, but a back, shed-roof addition was added, maybe after it was moved in 1931.  The house was originally single-wall construction with dark brown stained shingles.
Unfortunately, when we bought it in 2000, it had been painted bright yellow and most of the original doors and windows had been removed, probably because one of the owners decided to build up the thin outside walls with 2x4s and put insulation in between and when the wall more than doubled in size, I suppose the old windows wouldn’t fit anymore – or maybe they had deteriorated to such a degree, that they just didn’t want to deal with them.  Whatever the case, the challenge now is to put back in period-appropriate windows and doors, old lighting and about a million other things.
As an artist, I’m a big fan of the early Arts & Crafts/Art Nouveau ideas and in the tradition of Bailley Scott, Voysey and Mackintosh, my desire is to make my little cottage a “House Beautiful.”  I plan on keeping the outside as original as possible, but want to make the inside into a little jewel box of early 20th Century ornament and design.  This blog will not only show the restoration work involved, but will follow the journey of my little “Artistic House.”