Kitchen shelves are finished and installed!

Posted: January 21st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, woodworking | Tags: | No Comments »

kitchen shelves

After a year of steady work, we’ve finally completed this huge shelf. Here it is on the work bench for the first coat of varnish.

kitchen shelf

After the varnish, we painted the shelf back blue to match the color of our kitchen walls, and screwed on the shelf back (it provides important structural support and makes it easier to hang the shelf.) And then both of my parents helped us to haul it up to Limington and hang it up!

kitchen shelf!

When we built the kitchen walls, we put sheets of 3/4″ plywood instead of strapping on top of the rigid foam insulation, under the blue board and plaster, all around the countertop areas where we expected to hang upper cabinets or shelving. So when it came time to hang the shelf, we didn’t have to wonder about where the strapping was, whether the screws would grab into wood or just plaster, whether the wall’s strong enough. We know the plaster is all backed with nice strong wood because we built it ourselves!

new open shelving

New Bay Window Installation

Posted: July 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, progress, woodworking | No Comments »

the ugly window

picture window in the kitchen

We are FINALLY getting our new bay window in! I’ve always hated this big picture window, mainly because it’s cruddy and falling apart, but also because it’s ugly and ill-suited to our kitchen and our house. I think it would fit better in a mid-century bungalow or split-level ranch, but it looks all wrong on an old victorian farmhouse. When we asked our master carpenter, Lynn, to build the window trim to finish up the inside of the window, he said “are you kidding? that whole window frame is totally rotten!” And so my parents came to the rescue and offered us A NEW BAY WINDOW as our wedding present! It took us maybe 9 months to shop around and pick out which window we wanted. It was hard to pick the best window brand because my parents (who’ve renovated their own lovely old farmhouse) warned that they had bought a bunch of new windows at great expense that they ended up hating! They warned us against windows with plastic frames or plastic sashes or plastic runners or any plastic or vinyl at all (because it can get brittle when exposed to sunlight and weather, and crack and break easily). And they warned us against finger jointed wood in any part of the window whatsoever. Most of the manufacturers we called were disqualified because they do use plastic somewhere on the window, and wooden windows do have finger joints (which allow moisture into the wood and cause the paint to peel away and the wood to rot). Finally we picked out a fancy-pants Marvin bay window from the showroom in Portland, which does have durable vinyl in the runners but does not have any finger-joints on exposed wood and is generally very very beautiful and fancy! The sashes slide up and down with delightful ease, they pivot inwards for easy cleaning, and the double-paned glass means they are very energy-efficient and no storm windows.

Once we ordered the window we called our carpenter Lynn to install it – this was part of my parents’ gift to us! Unfortunately Lynn was very very very busy so it took a few months before he could start the installation.

New Bay Window Installation

New Bay Window Installation

Lynn came with his son Levi to help out. They make a great team. The day they tore out the old window was the most spectacular sunny June day, warm and clear, and the feeling of sitting in our kitchen with no window at all, just a beautiful wide open wall filled with fresh air and the view of sunshine and green grass, was a delight. (Too bad we don’t live in California or we could’ve just left it like that.)

New Bay Window Installation New Bay Window Installation
new bay window

finished painting!

Posted: March 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, living room, progress | No Comments »

finished painting!

Done painting the livingroom! we finished just in time for Mike’s birthday, and I framed and hung some of our posters and art for him as a birthday present. I’m glad we decided not to paint this room yellow, though I think the mint green is a little boring. Anyway it definitely looks better than before! And it will look even better when we replace those horrible ceiling tiles. And repaint the floors.

This is what the livingroom looked like in November 2010.

our wedding

Posted: September 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, fun, life | No Comments »

photo by Pamela Vachon

We got married! It was really fun.

Sometimes (many, many times) it seemed like a crazy idea to get married at our house, in our back yard, in the middle of trying to renovate our house, especially since our back yard was nothing but a giant pile of garbage and tenacious weeds and brambles. But I think the whole idea is about being together, with your entire family and your whole circle of wonderful human beings, and being who you are, how you are, all together. We wouldn’t want to get married in some impersonal place, all dressed in white and made up to look like different people. We just wanted to have a big fun party with everyone we love, in our own space. And we did, and it was great. I wish we could have so many of our favorite people together in one place more often.

We cannot thank our friends and family and neighbors enough for all the incredible amounts of hard work that everyone did to help us get everything ready!!!!! We got SO MUCH work done in a big hurry because of this big exciting deadline, and because of the generous help of so many friends and family!

the big party

Mike and Eliza. Elizabeth Press wedding

Our back yard has definitely never looked this beautiful before, and may never look this good again. Giant collapsing wreck of a barn notwithstanding. It was pure magic to see our back yard transformed into this beautiful space filled with loving faces, bright wildflowers and bunting, delicious food and drink and music.



If you wanted to see 1,000,000 more photos of the big day, you could see them here.

tiling the mudroom

Posted: March 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, progress, slow progress | Tags: , , | No Comments »

so we FINALLY got to put in our lovely Argentine encaustic tiles on the mudroom floor. We’ve been working away on the mudroom, slowly, for a loooonnng time and we bought these tiles over a year ago, before we moved from Buenos Aires! So this has been a long time coming! And it feels great to finally have them down.

tiling the mudroom tiling the mudroom

first I made a grid… then laid out all the tiles for a dry fitting.

tiling the mudroom

cutting the tiles to fit the space turned out to be a big challenge. we built a little wooden jig to help us cut the tiles neatly.

tiling the mudroom

cutting cement tiles is messy business

tiling the mudroom

laying down mortar and tiles

tiling the mudroom

all done!

I did grout them and now we just need to scrub them and seal them and they’ll be done! I have to say that they are not totally perfect, the surface is a bit uneven but… hey, I did my best – I think it’s going to work fine!

exciting kitchen progress

Posted: January 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, progress | 2 Comments »

we made this cabinet!

here’s the finished sink cabinet

now we’ve got the first cabinet box done, we get to really start moving in, and install our beautiful countertop and sink!! Mike unpacked our lovely cherry butcherblock countertop and started giving it a tung-oil treatment that should protect it against water and stains and stuff. Basically just painting on lots of oil and then rubbing it off with a rag a few minutes later and repeat once a day for a few days.

finishing the countertop finishing the countertop

before and after – the tung oil really changes the color.

Then we had to do a bit of work to get the sink ready. Because it was an old salvaged sink (from Pete’s Place in Hollis), we had to use a wire brush to scrub off some rust from the bottom side and then paint over it with some smelly white rust-oleum type stuff.

repainted the rusty underside of the sink

salvaged sink took a bit of repair work before using.

Then dropped the counter into place and trimmed the edges/corners to fit snugly against our not-straight kitchen wall, then cut out the hole to fit the sink in.

cutting the sink hole into the countertop

ready for the sink

cutting the sink hole into the countertop

And then… the sink goes in! hooray!!!

sink is in!!!

this is the old faucet, we have a slightly nicer one that we’re going to replace it with

Now we just need to get the sink hooked up and we’ll have a real kitchen!! We dragged in the fridge too, and Mike sealed and finished the counters. Cooking dinner is SO much easier and funner now, and it’s going to be such a delight when the sink is working too.

big kitchen progress!

whoo! we’re on our way

kitchen walls

Posted: January 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, progress | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

We took a big plunge and decided to hire a few contractors to help us get the kitchen up and running. We still want to try and do most everything ourselves, but it felt like a week or two of hired help could help us get a huge kick-start on the kitchen, just to get to the point where we can survive through the winter in here. Consulted our budget (ie. how much money we can borrow from my parents) and decided we could (just barely) afford to hire some help from a carpenter and a plasterer, to get the kitchen walls finished up quickly so we can move on to installing cabinets, counter, sink, all the good stuff! My dad had recently bumped into on old acquaintance named Lynn, a master carpenter who happened to be looking for new projects. And my sister Alicia recommended a plasterer friend, Laura, who had done some good work in their house and could help us whip up some kitchen walls. So we made some phone calls and… Voilà! December began with a house full of skilled tradesmen working away in our house. Lynn and Laura working on the kitchen while Nate and his helper worked away on the bathroom plumbing and basement drainpipes. We can’t afford to have them do a whole lot of work, but they can quickly get a lot of basics finished and get us further along the road! It was weird and fun to spend a few weeks with a crowd of workers in the house, we had to try and stay out of their way so they could work, and I was almost constantly employed in answering zillions of questions about “will you want to put some molding here” or “how do you want this wall to meet the ceiling” or “where should this pipe run” or “can I rip this out” or “should we plaster over this or go around it” etc etc! There were so many questions that we hadn’t thought about – it’s like a full time job just figuring out how to orchestrate and direct the contractors. At night when everybody had gone home, we’d drag two chairs into the empty kitchen and sit by the woodstove eating dinner on our laps, then in the morning we’d have to wake up super early to clear away everything from the kitchen again, drag the chairs and everything out of the worksite and start up the woodstove so it would start to get warm by the time everyone turned up for work. Then once it started snowing we had to clear and sand the driveway every morning so the work vans could get up the driveway. Mike had to stay in the bedroom to work most days, since his workday is filled with conference calls, can’t really do that in the middle of a construction site. The puppy made friends with all of the contractors and clambered all over them while they worked and tried to steal their lunches every day, but had to be locked up in the bedroom with Mike most of the time, or else she certainly would have chopped off the end of her pretty little nosy snout by getting it too close to a sawzall or a drill.

Lynn’s work in the kitchen was mostly getting everything totally finalized and prepared for hanging wallboard – in an old house, no walls are straight, no two wall segments line up quite properly, no doorway is straight, no two pieces of wood are on the same plane. There’s an infinite amount of little discrepancies to be evened out and tidied up. With a plane and impressive speed and skill, Lynn straightened out our doorways, replaced missing studs, missing bits of strapping, made walls level and plane and square, furred-out short bits and sawed off other bits, took out old broken wood and replaced it with new strong wood. We’d done our best to do the pre-wallboard preparation ourselves, but it was remarkable to see how many things we’d missed!

kitchen ceiling

1-inch insulation and strapping on the ceiling, all ready to hang blueboard.

Then Laura and Rick hung blueboard all over. Blueboard is a special wallboard that’s intended for plastering over. Here’s what the kitchen looked like with all the wallboard up – what a dramatic difference!

kitchen with blueboard

all done with insulating, now the blueboard is up, and all is ready to plaster!

Work got slowed down with Christmas and then a big snowstorm. Just before New Years, Laura and Rick started to put up the plaster, and finished up in the first week of the new year. The plaster is kind of a mysterious and magical thing. It starts as soup and ends up as rock-hard walls. They had a bit of a struggle to work on the ceiling and walls above our woodstove, as it’s blazing hot and dry up there, and the plaster needs to complete a chemical hardening process before all the water evaporates out of it. We had to spritz the walls lightly with a spray bottle for an hour or two after they finished, to make sure it didn’t dry out too quickly.

plaster in kitchen!

all done with plaster!

Laura grew up learning plastering from her father and her grandfather, who were plasterers too. She said when she was just little, she would do the bottom of the walls while her father and grandfather worked on the top part. These days plastering is much less common, most people just do wallboard now, but it works really well for an old, crooked house – it fits with the history of the house, and works nicely up against the exposed beams and it helps to fill in some odd gaps and smooth over some of the irregularities.

Back when we were in the destruction and gutting phase, we found this beautiful huge beam when we ripped out the old wall by the chimney. We’d originally imagined having cabinets along this wall, but then it seemed like a shame to cover up this amazing beam, so in the end we took a few days trying to figure out whether it made sense to do some carpentry and plaster magic to keep it exposed, or just cover it over for the sake of getting work done more quickly. In the end we decided to take the time to expose it and we are really happy with how it looks now!!

kitchen beam

before and after.

plaster in kitchen!

Historically speaking, this kind of exposed beams are not at all authentic, it has a fun old-timey look but the original house never would’ve had its beams showing like this. We think it looks cool anyway!

painting the ceiling priming the kitchen walls

priming the kitchen walls

So… early January and we’re ready to paint the walls! This felt like such a huge exciting milestone and we were SO pumped to get started!! but turned into a huge job because the fresh plaster absorbs a TON of paint. It took something like six gallons of primer to cover the whole kitchen. I also had to tape off and mask off ALL of those precious exposed beams, a hellishly tedious process that involved balancing on top of a ladder, sweating in the heat and weirdly contorted to reach the beams overhead, carefully taping along the edges of every beam while wood splinters fall down in my eyes.

painting the kitchen

taping the ceiling for painting is really annoying

color deliberations

color deliberations, part one

We went through some lengthy indecision about colors, we tested EIGHT different color swatches and ended up liking this light-blue color.

painting the kitchen

benjamin moore, yarmouth blue

judy helps with painting

judy helps with painting

bathroom floor

Posted: November 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, excitement, progress | 1 Comment »

we are working on the downstairs bathroom today, putting in a new wood floor! will post photos soon. HERE ARE THE PHOTOS!

laying hardwood floor in the bathroom laying hardwood floor in the bathroom

laying the first planks … and then a day later, almost finished!

we found a pretty good deal on the white oak flooring. we had originally decided to do native Maine slate tiles, but I got worried that the slate would feel dreadfully cold underfoot, and I am such a wuss about cold. especially in and around the bathtub. at first I was hesitant about using wood in the bathroom (because of all the moisture) but Judy and Richard have wood floors in both of their bathrooms and they love it, it holds up well, and they don’t seem to do any crazy kind of maintenance to keep it up. Just don’t leave standing water on the floor all the time. And it looks beautiful in their house, both Mike and I liked the idea (we are trying to make all decisions by consensus and luckily, so far we can usually find something we both agree upon)! Richard recommended white oak (which is what they used in their bathrooms) because it is a naturally water-resistant wood that’s commonly used for boatbuilding. So now it’s just a few planks away from being all finished and it looks SO FANTASTIC! ♥ ♥ ♥

cutting wood for bathroom floor

cutting planks of wood to fit

spiffy new door

Posted: November 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, woodworking | No Comments »

Judy and Richard

photo by Lisa, thank you!

Our newest door is up! Richard and Judy both collaborated on this beautifully restored door, it’s dusty/bright orange on the outside and periwinkle blue/violet on the inside. This spot had clearly once been a doorway but had more recently been boarded up and painted over, the entryway had been converted into a closet or something. Judy and Richard found this beautiful solid wood victorian-era door stored up in our attic and thought it would be perfect for this spot. The door had at some point been sawed off messily and lopsidedly, to fit into a too-small doorway, so Richard brought it into his workshop and grafted on new wood to seamlessly replace the sawed-off portions. Then Judy stripped off the lead paint and refinished all the wood, had beveled-glass windows custom made for the coffin windows, set in and glazed the glass herself. They found original Victorian doorknobs and hardware at an architectural salvage store. Then we had to rip out the boards covering the old doorway, had to rip out most of the old doorway and molding and stuff and put in a new floor in the entryway so that Richard could put in a new threshold and build a new doorway to hang the door!

It occurs to me how much easier it would’ve been if we were just building a new house and hanging a new door… but then we wouldn’t have so many stories to tell!

before: boarded up doorway

before: boarded up doorway

the door

found door: stripping off old paint

the door in the workshop

in the workshop!

Mortar and cement board

have to lay down cement board on the floor before we can put in the new threshold

Richard hung up our new door!

hanging the new door

Richard hung up our new door! New door hardware


Richard hung up our new door!

we have heat!!

Posted: October 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, heating, kitchen, progress | No Comments »

We met some new friends that live right down the street in Limerick!! George is a stone mason, and was so sweet to offer us some advice and help with setting up our hearth and stove. He advised us to put some slate slabs under the feet of the woodstove and offered to cut them out for us, using a piece of slate we had lying around in the yard. They are beautiful smooth circles cut from gray slate and look fantastic with our little circular tiles. And then he helped us drag our woodstove over and put on the legs and set the whole thing up in place on the hearth – a HUGE and heavy task!!! which we are so incredibly grateful for!!! So that got done ahead of schedule, on Friday night. On Saturday morning it was so great to wake up and see this beautiful stove sitting on our new hearth, waiting for the first fire! First we had to cut down all the stove pipe bits and wrestle them all into place and cement them together.

installing & cementing the stove pipe woodstove is ready to go!!!!!

Richard helps install the stove pipe; all finished and ready to go!

And then… Sunday morning… our FIRST FIRE! in our brand new wood stove! wow. this is so so so exciting. And cozy and warm. Not a moment too soon, as it was quite a chilly morning. Because it’s a brand-new woodstove, in the first few days we have to burn off some chemicals and stuff in the paint, so we’ve gotta keep all the windows open in the house, and fire it up slowly. Next weekend should be even colder so hopefully we can close all the windows by then.
Just look at that beautiful new woodstove. It’s so handsome! And warm!

Laika supervises our first fire!!

Laika supervises our first fire. Note the beautiful little slate circles under each foot of the woodstove!




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