Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009!

A year at the Welty house. We are making small strides with little projects but a year later we have a very nice new bathroom, new steps and several little conveniences like a platform for our garbage cans, deck removal, and small projects.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Little Porch

The little screened porch on the side of the house is probably my favorite space in the place in the summer and fall. Like tonight. It's been balmy and stormy and just to hot, but tonight it is absolutely delightful. Candlelight and bug free - I don't want the night to end. Maxfield Parrish skies, watching nothing imparticular go by is the best feeling ever. Our bush in front of the porch secludes us from at least half of the porch so it almost feels like a secret fort feel from kidom. Happiness is being on the porch listening to a little music.


So Gilly ripped out our steps and we found some bricks that matched the house brick fairly nicely. Unfortunately we didn't talk to Gilly about what color mortar he was going to use and he chose red. It wasn't working for us. Gilly, being the good guy he is found a fix. He did an additional acid wash to the bricks so they don't look so pink and he got a brown paint to paint the mortar. We have to let the mortar has to cure for 28 days before we can paint it, but once we do that, we'll be happy campers.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The bathroom is almost done - and thank goodness. Do I really need to write any more about this little bathroom. For those purist, know that we didn't get rid of the sink - the original sink. I couldn't bare to part with it. We are keeping it for the basement when we add a bathroom down there. So there!

Under several layers of paint we found what we think is the original color of the bathroom - it's a green color. We are painting the plaster portion upper 1/2 the same green color. I can't wait! The tub reglazer ran out of materials and had to reschedule otherwise we'd be done this week. Nope - no such luck. He is coming this Friday so over the weekend we'll be without a shower - but it should be the last time we are without a shower - hopefully forever in this house.

We're still going through the motions of looking to make an offer on the other property. I'm not really in any hurry and think that if it is meant to be it will happen very easily. We wanted to have the crumbling bricks in the front stoop rebuilt and the bathroom completed before we'd put a FOR SALE sign in the yard. Ugh, just the idea seems a little off. Part of me thinks I'm off my rocker to even consider it.

The deal is we want a place in Chicago again. It's been interesting being back in town here because I'm not attached to it. I'm not involved in the community and most of our friends are in Chicago. Nothing is really keeping us here aside from the house and my parents. I have to change - get involved - be part of this little town. We'll see what happens next.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Our 1926 Bungalow is very special. I'm having a great time with it. The bathroom is nearly done, the landscaping is beginning to happen, the kitchen - it's going to be awhile before anything happens there. I'll have 'dish pan hands' for awhile more although I really don't mind. We're makng this our own little piece of heaven.

When we came to the conclusion that renovating the attic would just be too much expense to have one more bedroom and bath, especially with the fact that we felt that the exterior would be ruined with the type of dormer it would require to make it how we'd want it on the inside completely destroying the integrity of the outside, we were okay with that.

Although we would like to have one more bedroom and bath, it seemed that it wasn't going to happen. We began plotting to do a bathroom in the basement and refinish that a bit more to get us the extra space we want.

So, Sarah says go check out this house. Not even considering anything we did. It's a Tudor with another bedroom and a half bath on the main froor. It's got the original 1920's bathroom fixtures, beautiful tile in the upstairs bathroom, a fireplace in the master, a kitchen custom renovated and another bedroom. It's on two lots, gorgeous landscape, a quiet street, corner lot, two car garage......

There is nothing to be done to this place. It's a show place. I see myself entertaining in this house. It's gorgeous! It's for sale by owner. It's a temptation.

Many things would have to align for it to make sense to go for this house including giving up our sweet little bungalow. Our house is on a busy street, the houses neighboring are pretty close, the landscaping needs lots of TLC and there is that space issue.

Win or lose the other house, I'm happy, but I think if I don't try at all, I'd be disappointed that I didn't go for it.

The saga will continue.


Cookouts, warmer days, the sound of lawn mowers in the's Memorial Day!

Tomorrow begins the tile work! The bathroom will be complete this week. Thanks to all here who gave me advice on working with the sink and toilet. In the end our advisor said that with the expense we would have reglazing the sink we'd be better off replacing it. They said that since this was our only bathroom that the reglazing could get messed up really easy in a sink. We chose a sink that resembles the one we have but is actually 6" taller. Back in the day the sinks were pretty low. A tall guy would have to really bend over to do anything. We're not the purist renovators although we are pretty close. Respecting the integrity is coming into play in every decision we make.

We did decide to keep the toilet. The floor is the original floor with all its flaws and character, the tub is the original tub. We did make one little change. It seems that it WAS usual to have the spout within the tub. We have seen a couple tubs with the original fixtures and neither had a water return feature. I was told that it was changed so that there was a return because water from the tub could go back out into the faucet. That just doesn't sound good no matter how much we want to keep the integrity of the original design. Let's face it - there are some things that modern technology has improved. So, with that in mind, our faucet is above the tub and we'll have a return water thingy ma jig. I haven't had a bath in this house, yet. I've owned it 8 years. It will be divine! I had the pleasure of two places in the past where there were deep, deep claw foot tubs. This won't be so deep, but a nice bath on occasion can't be beat.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spring Update

Last time I blogged about this old house there was snow on the ground. Now the leaves are finally blooming and the birds are singing away. I had forgotton how nice it is to hear the birds singing in the morning. Being on the 30th floor in a high rise isn't good for hearing anything but the traffic on Lake Shore Drive and occassionally the El announcements on the Bryn Mawr stop when the windows were open and the wind was just right.

I learned a little about the street. Welty Ave is named from the Welty Family Farm and the streets parallel are named after Welty's sons Dawson, Robert and Calvin. I love learning history about the neighborhood.

This weekend we put up the screens and put away the storms. I'm in awe of the workmanship with the little numbered plates corresponding with each window. On the frames of a couple of the windows is the date "October 10, 1967" and the year written alone 1973. There is also an architectural drawing labeling each window. It's this sort of history that just warms me heart. We worked in the yard on Saturday, cleaned out the gutters and put up the screens. I haven't felt so connected to the house in ages. It's a good feeling.

Our bathroom is in progress. After my Dad tried to turn the leaking faucet off at the tub and broke the stem while we were on vacation, I called our contractor and said we needed something done now. He came over and assessed that they could put in the cement board and put in the hardware to get us by until the tile expert is available in a week or two. We've had to wait for the contractor and the Italian Tile Man these last couple months. We're next in line after they finish one more bathroom. I see this as a good sign. I was beyond delighted with the work so far. Seasoned professionals who do it right can't be rushed. I could leave town while they do the work and be worry free.

The fact that the water is no longer running is a huge relief. It had well passed the point of a drip and was a steady stream of warm water. It was a matter or ordering parts for the old plumbing fixtures which required special order or just replacing it with the new plumbing which seemed smarter. Unfortunately the wait to do the plumbing fix was taking longer than we had hoped. I tried to ignore it, but it was torture - a constant audio of wasting money and water both from a green perspective and a financial perspective. I hadn't realized how tortured I was feeling until it stopped. The silence is beautiful. We are able to take showers in the interim with the plastic wrap over the board, but there is very little water pressure and the hot water temperature is not exactly hot. Alas, by June we should have a finished product. I can't wait!

We've done a few little things for the betterment of the house. We had a electrician fix some outlets and clean up the garage issues. Now we have lights on the garage which look really nice and add a sense of security. It was terribly dark walking from the garage to the house and the alley has no lights nearby. We also have a new light fixture for the front stoop. It was merely a bald lightbulb before.

Progress is coming slowly, but everything is good. There is a squirrel in the big tree out back as I write this. The branches have filled back in since the Microblast that occurred on July 5, 2003. We lost lots of trees in the whole area. I am very grateful that our one big tree in the back yard didn't fall on our house. We lost big branches that had kept us secluded from the neighbors behind us. The blast was so bad that nearly every street had several trees knocked across the road and into houses and over cars. It was a sad day to lose so many trees. The neighborhood looked bare. Nature prevails and now it is looking much greener and lush again after nearly 5 years. Our goal is to put up a privacy fence and take out the old rotting wood deck. The deck is too small to be useful and now it is just an eye sore.

Those are the currently updates for the moment. Before and after photos are soon to come.

Friday, February 6, 2009

When You Ask

I finally reached out to Sarah Bell and her husband Kurt. Sarah was my high school art teacher who was a wonderful contribution to my childhood. They have a gorgeous Victorian House near the river which she and her husband restored. Kurt is a general contractor himself and does residential work. They have an appreciation for historic architecture.

Before leaving for Chicago I spoke with her and told her that when we moved back that I'd want to talk to Kurt about the house.

Instead of calling her first thing when we moved back, I did some research of my own which was fun. I think talking to a bathroom and kitchen designer helped me learn what I don't want. The experience was well worth the time. Kurt and Sarah are coming over to assess what we're doing and give me a punch list. I completely trust anything they would tell me. To have trust is probably one of the most important pieces to this whole deal. Who do you listen to? Had I listened to the one guy, I'd be ripping out the whole bathroom and replacing my toilet. I knew that he wasn't right for the job.

When I mentioned my concern about the toilet and wasting water she said to look at it another way; we're not putting a perfectly good toilet into the landfill and there are only two of us here so perhaps the water waste is outweighed by keeping the toilet we have. I will not be giving up my Rockford Brass Works toilet after all. I let her know that we bought the subway tiles for 19 cents each she didn't say anything. I still think that was a pretty good deal. I don't think there is anything wrong with researching and learning a little on your own before going to the experts. It especially helps to know what you want.

They'd be helping with the attic expansion. My thoughts are two dormers and make a master bedroom and bathroom up there with a sitting area/library. I've been looking at lots of pictures and have an idea, but nothing concrete.

I'm very excited that they're coming over next week. It feels like its coming together!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Keeping with the integrity of this old bungalow is a constant challenge.

The sink in our bungalow is a great pedastol sink. There is rust by the drain and the water overflow (the rust is in the same spot as a very similar sink at the Kohler Museum in Kolher, WI) so first step will be talking with the pros who do re-glazing. If they tell me that my sink is not fixable, then we have a whole new set of questions. Do we get another pedastol sink or do we do something with a cabinet underneath? Do we start to make the bathroom more contemporary? We do like the asian style sinks....but then will this wreck our mission of keeping the integrity of the bathroom. It just seems keeping with the style of this house is the way to go.
We have the original toilet (I think). It's working great accept for some minor issues with the flapper slides up and causes the water to run. We just slide it back down and its fixed. Bad news is I just learned that to flush this toilet it takes approximately 5 gallons of water! EWW! Contemporary toilets only take 1.6 gallons of water. Talk about leaving a carbon footprint!
The good news is I found a contemporary toilet that looks identical to the one we have. Instead of 'Rockford Brass Works' it will have 'Lydia' from It is about $900. I'm glad to know its there.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dining Room Before and After

We have had the same dining room table and chairs for over 10 years. My Mom had given me the table and chairs when I had my first apartment after college. I really, really like the style. Unfortunately they came with a few issues - beaten up a bit and only 4 chairs. It was tough to sit comfortably with a group of over four. I was always fearful that someone might fall to the floor if one of the chairs gave way. It was time to move on.
I wanted a table with claw feet - antique or antique style. We came upon this one and decided to give it a go. I like it very much...and with 8 chairs - no more folding chairs at dinner parties. I think it looks more grown-up, too.

My Hero!

It is clear to me that I make everything more difficult and intimidating than it needs to be. I've been anxious about this bathroom refinish and my guy, Kimball has put me at ease. He has bought and flipped several houses like this and he does refinishing in bathrooms and kitchens all the time. After having the other guy out who basically wants to gut the bathroom, Kimball has given me reassurance that we don't have to gut it to accomplish what I want to accomplish. I'm so relieved.

Today he is here making life better. The two little peevish projects are in the works as I write. He put in a 20volt circuit in the eletrical which took all of 5 minutes and our crap shoot microwave is fixed. It was such an irritating problem. While cooking we had to hold our breath every time we turned on the microwave. Would we have to go to the basement to flip the breaker this time or next? It seemed it was every two to five times of use. He thinks he resolved it. No need for expensive overhauls as I thought might be the case. Seriously - 5 minutes. To me he is worth his weight in gold.

The kitchen sink. He is putting in a new faucet. The old one was driving me crazy because it was so low to the sink that it was just not user-friendly. I had put a nozzle on the end of the faucet to have a spray option which makes a big difference, but only added less distance between the bottom of the sink and the end of the spicket. In addition he is adding the water valves under the sink so that we can turn the water off from upstairs should there be a problem. Now we'd have to run to the basement to shut off the water which in such situations time is of essence.

My hero!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ARGH! Bathroom Advice

So the bathroom is going to be a major ordeal. I spoke with a contractor who basically wasn't listening to me. I told him I wanted to keep the bathroom pretty much the way it is, but add tile where the ugly plastic is and take the faucet off of the water return drain in the tub.

Perhaps it's because I'm a woman that he felt he knew best, but he's fired before I even hire him. Yep. This isn't going to be so fun afterall.

The kitchen and bath salesman I spoke to was great. He came with the plumber to look at the job. He removed his shoes and made the plumber remove his shoes as they walked across the hardwood floors. He seemed to "get it" and listened and offered some suggestions. He said he would send over the contractor who does the demolition and tile work. It was this contractor who disuaded me from only replacing the plaster where I wanted the tile. When I said how I wanted the tile to be 6 ft.' he said that it should go to the top of the arch in the tub area. He suggested that the whole bathroom be gutted so that he could put in mould adverse boards. He said he could recreate the arch over the tub and it would still be an arch but would be a little different. He then proceeded to tell me how he put in lights over the shower and a glass door and pulled out the closet outside the bathroom and reconstructed a bathroom somewhere in the neighborhood. My heart just starting sinking. He did confirm that the plumber should put in the "studs for the second floor bathroom while we have it torn apart. I did like that idea. He also confirmed that the floor finish on the baseboards would have to be sanded and repainted. It was my floor refinisher that has made me leery of contractors in the first place. If they don't know what they're doing they could really screw you up.

My handyman I like. He is reasonable - beyond reasonable in cost, but he also has a full time job. I'm afraid he just doesn't have the time to do the bathroom. He, too, would modernize the bathroom if it were strictly up to him. He listens, though. Meanwhile, until I get this dang job started the water is dripping down the drain and it's like Chinese Water Torture.

Who knew it takes a week to get a quote. I know there is someone out there who gets the point. Hey, it isn't going to be the biggest job in the world, but the fact is, if they do a good job then it is likely they'll get the job to do the kitchen, basement and the attic space, too.

Monday, January 12, 2009


So it is going much slower than I thought it would. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the "to do list". It's not the actually list as much as who I want to work with, who to call first - a plumber, a handyman, a contractor or an architect?

The bathroom is priority
as there are issues that need to be resolved. Do we just patch it up or do we go for renovating the whole thing right away. Cost comes into play. This is the most pressing job because the faucet is now leaking 24/7 in the tub. The handles in the bathtub are stripped. I tried simply replacing the parts behind the handles but unfortunately they would have to be ordered and they're really old. They may be the original parts when the house was built. New generic handles worked for awhile, but now even pliers aren't working to turn off the water. The question becomes why not just invest to do it right verses patching it up to just get by. Tiles, new pipes if need be and all that jazz.

At some point the shower enclosure panel was replaced with a yellow panel so it doesn't match the other panels. The vent is vented to the attic and not outside - sloppy. The ceiling is cracking a little and the pain is peeling. I'm curious to see the original color of the tiles. Someone did a white wash over the whole bathroom at some point.

But no project is in isolation. There is the question of the attic renovation. We'd like to put a claw foot tub in the attic bathroom. Will there need to be support structure built in to handle the weight. If we have the bathroom renovated and then had to have a steel beam structure put in would that mess with the newly renovated bathroom since the bathroom ceiling would be essentially the bathroom floor in the upstairs. If we can't have a tub in the attic do we want to put a claw foot tub on the first floor and rip out what we have now?

It seems that the projects are somewhat dependent on each other. Anyway that is what is going on.

I have my concerns about who to hire. We know there are people out there that lack any integrity about their workmanship and perhaps are just looking for a quick buck and might do a shoddy job. I heard plenty of horror stories while living in Chicago. Even the guy who I hired to refinish the floor when I first bought the house didn't cover the baseboards and got vanish all along the bottom of the baseboards and a few places on the walls. His co-worker dumped the left over vanish down the tub. When I questioned him he said he didn't know anything about it and didn't offer to do anything to fix it either. When I learned that it wasn't just a matter of removing the stain with GOOFOFF OR Goo Gone it was too late. So I guess I'm a little gun shy about it but nothing is getting done and that is unacceptable.

Do I have to become a licensed contractor myself in order to be sure things are done properly?

The bathroom - I'm thinking I'd like to keep all the original fixtures; the tub, sink and toilet. I'd like to have the mechanics in the toilet replaced if possible. There is a piece that slides and causes the water to run in the toilet that looks like it could be replaced. The sink has rust near the drain and the faucet and hot/cold water handles need to be replaced. Can we have it re-glazed? If we go that route will it be more expensive than just getting a new sink that looks like the one we have?
Same question regarding the tub. And then the ugly enclosure - one panel is yellow and the rest is beige and it's just UGLY. Should we get a new enclosure which would be the least expensive option or should we go for having it all ripped put and re-tiled? Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.

Such is the life of Cowabungalow