Winnetka renovation

Winnetka Colonial Chronicles, Part 8

Hooray! We crossed the finish line on this Winnetka Colonial before it finished us. We've spent months ripping it apart and carefully rebuilding it. This house is now ready to serve many more years. If you want to read more about this odyssey, check out Winnetka Colonial Chronicles Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Odyssey seems like the right word to describe this project. There was more joy than pain on this winding road. We are no nuttier today than we were at the start, so that also goes in the win column. It helps to find some pleasure in untangling those problems that inevitably pop up in vintage homes. It also helps that we we blocked out all of the hideous details from our memories. Who even remembers that happened? Not us.

The scars have healed. Now we can exhale and conclude with a look at the first floor. 

We refinished the hardwood floors with a custom stain, replaced the baseboard, and installed crown molding. The traditional center entry stairwell was stabilized and reinforced.

The typically oversized living room is always a bit tricky in colonial homes of this age, but we added lighting to complement the natural light from the large windows and refinished the fireplace which had previously featured painted brick. 

One way to reduce the "bowling alley" effect of the large colonial living room is to create some visual separation. In this example, we added french doors and a coffered ceiling to separate the study from the living room. We also added a passage to the kitchen to improve the flow of the house.

Another view of the study. The tightly compartmentalized floor plans of older homes are often incompatible with how families live today, so it's common to merge small spaces that are closed off and divide other spaces that are unusually large. 

Before: the old wall separating the kitchen from the dining room.

Before: the old kitchen.

The kitchen was a prime example of adapting the layout to today's family: small, dark and closed off by a wall where the refrigerator is now, the new kitchen benefitted from a more spacious expansion, as well as new appliances, cabinetry, and lighting.

A good layout is vital because so much of family life occurs in or near the kitchen. If possible, we like to make kitchens comfortable for two or more people to work together. Pathway widths of 44" between range and island and 46" between sink and island are shown here. An eight foot island ensures plenty of counter space for food prep and seating for four.

A small powder room is a fun challenge, and there is some limit to what can be done in a 44" x 44" room once the toilet is installed. The dramatic Farrow & Ball wallpaper created a dragged-paint effect and accentuates the height of the bathroom. 

Down-on-their-luck properties with the promise of a brighter future can test a homeowner to the core, no doubt. But the final results can be extraordinarily satisfying. We hope you enjoyed the Winnetka Colonial Chronicles, and thank you for spending some time in The Attic. Please don't hesitate to contact us if we can assist you with any of your renovation projects. 

Winnetka Colonial Chronicles, Part 5

When we last left the 1925 colonial in Winnetka, the exterior of the house was shaping up and much progress was happening on the interior. We are now ready to take you inside to see one of our hardest-working little rooms, the 2nd floor laundry. One common feature of old homes is that laundry machines are almost always located in the (chilly, dreary) basement. This house was no exception. To accommodate today's lifestyle, we set out to relocate the laundry to the second floor, but we faced one minor challenge. We left ourselves in the planning phase with a whopping 40 square feet and no room for error (gulp).

To start, we have a rectangular space that measures 8 x 5 feet, in the middle of the 2nd floor and at the top of the center stairwell which divides the house in half. A king-size bed is a little bigger than the space we have to work in, so no swing door is possible. We opted for a sliding barn door for space-saving and design purposes. Here's one half of the laundry room:

Mounting the machines on pedestals offers good ergonomics for loading and unloading the laundry as well as extra storage. A client let us repurpose the mini crystal flushmount on the ceiling when she no longer needed it. It's the perfect size and  a good use of surplus lighting fixtures. Who says your laundry room can't have a little glamour?      

Here's the other half of the laundry room:

Lower and upper cabinets with a durable quartz top help make this compact laundry room punch above its weight class with regard to elegant storage. Yet another generous client donated the glass door cabinets, and repurposing them here was better than sending them to the landfill.

The tile is from Akdo, the only splurge in this laundry room. It's porcelain and can take some abuse, but without sacrificing the visual interest. 

Readers of this blog might remember Winnetka Colonial Chronicles Part 3 in which I lovingly restored the old front door to this shining black beauty after many hours of sanding, priming, waiting 24 hours for it to dry, applying the base coat, waiting another 24 hours, sanding again, three coats of oil paint, and so forth until I never wanted to see another door in need of refinishing again. Did I also tell you how many people adored my jet black door? Zero. It was a bitter defeat for high-gloss black door fans everywhere. All three of you.  

Sometimes one door closes and another opens, this time in Dutch oil Tulip Red.

Feast your eyes on the most expensive and labor-intensive door I've ever touched. First black, now fire-engine red. The only way to rationalize this sort of (mis)adventure is to say "art before commerce" and find an adult beverage. Or six.  

Feast your eyes on the most expensive and labor-intensive door I've ever touched. First black, now fire-engine red. The only way to rationalize this sort of (mis)adventure is to say "art before commerce" and find an adult beverage. Or six.  

High gloss oil paint is bananas. A total pain in the neck to work with when compared to latex paints, but the depth of color and sheen is unbeatable. It's mounted. I'm not refinishing it a third time. So there.

High gloss oil paint is bananas. A total pain in the neck to work with when compared to latex paints, but the depth of color and sheen is unbeatable. It's mounted. I'm not refinishing it a third time. So there.

We're heading into the home stretch on this project, and we'll follow up with the next installment of Winnetka Colonial Chronicles in 2017. In the meantime, we hope you all enjoy the holidays this month! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winnetka Colonial Chronicles, Part 3

We did major surgery on the inside of a 1925 colonial in Winnetka, and you can catch up on the colossal mess we made in Winnetka Colonial Chronicles Part 2.

The dust has temporarily settled. Just when we thought we were losing our minds with all of the debris, rotted pipes, fire-hazardous wiring, and atomized plaster particles covering every square inch, we finished most of the items behind the walls. New electrical. New plumbing. New windows. New roof and gutters. Repairing the walls, ceilings, and floors is just around the corner. We're getting close to sewing this patient back up.

During weekends and off-hours, we give the doors some much-needed attention. We think this old colonial would approve.

We decided to preserve as many of the original solid wood interior doors as we could. Some were in rough shape, and all of them needed to be stripped, sanded, and repainted. 

We decided to preserve as many of the original solid wood interior doors as we could. Some were in rough shape, and all of them needed to be stripped, sanded, and repainted. 

We saved the front door of the house from the landfill. After sanding it down to bare wood and repairing some minor damage, it received a coat of Hollandlac oil-based primer. 

We saved the front door of the house from the landfill. After sanding it down to bare wood and repairing some minor damage, it received a coat of Hollandlac oil-based primer. 

Although it's pricy compared to water-based paints, we like  Dutch oil paint and primers  when the job calls for it. The rich depth of color is incredible and nearly impossible to achieve with latex paints. This exterior door will endure decades after we're finished with it. 

Although it's pricy compared to water-based paints, we like Dutch oil paint and primers when the job calls for it. The rich depth of color is incredible and nearly impossible to achieve with latex paints. This exterior door will endure decades after we're finished with it. 

Our resident artist at work. It's not too early to start thinking about the interior paint schedule. 

Our resident artist at work. It's not too early to start thinking about the interior paint schedule. 

The former attic might be our favorite space to finish. It was unfinished when we came upon the property, but it was connected to the 2nd floor by a full stairwell. Tall cathedral ceilings, be still my beating heart! 

The former attic might be our favorite space to finish. It was unfinished when we came upon the property, but it was connected to the 2nd floor by a full stairwell. Tall cathedral ceilings, be still my beating heart! 

In order to create the required headroom at the top of the stairs, we could have removed a step at the peak and dropped the ceiling on the 2nd floor to accommodate the new landing in the attic. Or  . . . we could rip out a big chunk of the roof and build a dormer for a dramatic tree-house effect.

In order to create the required headroom at the top of the stairs, we could have removed a step at the peak and dropped the ceiling on the 2nd floor to accommodate the new landing in the attic. Or  . . . we could rip out a big chunk of the roof and build a dormer for a dramatic tree-house effect.

Happy to finally meet you, my favorite new tree house. I feel like I've always known you somehow.

Happy to finally meet you, my favorite new tree house. I feel like I've always known you somehow.

I feel something sentimental as the project turns the corner from the unglamorous plumbing, electrical, framing, and other "behind-the-scenes" work to some of the tangible finishes. It's a mixture of relief and anticipation with a twinge of farewell because I can see the end approaching just over the horizon. There's probably a German expression for this jumbled feeling, like schadenfreude, but I don't know what it is. I'm glad for it, I suppose. It reminds me that we must hand over the keys eventually, so we'll make every day count until then. 

 

Winnetka Colonial Chronicles, Part 2

Demolishing the interior of a house from top to bottom only takes a few days, but it reveals decades of history. The splendor of paint choices from the 1970's come to light. Cloth-wrapped electrical wires are pulled out and replaced with new. Old rusted iron pipes from 1925 are laid to rest with new copper and PVC in their place. Yards of badly worn carpet land in the dumpster.   

Some things are worth preserving, such as the original doors we described in Winnetka Colonial Chronicles Part 1. Still, we're going to say farewell to many things in this house, starting with the kitchen.

Half the original kitchen. Old, dark, and tiny.   

Half the original kitchen. Old, dark, and tiny.   

The other half with one of the original double ovens made for homeowners. 

The other half with one of the original double ovens made for homeowners. 

Adios, old kitchen. 

Adios, old kitchen. 

The rim joists were stuffed with newspaper from the last year these walls were opened up. "Give 'em Hell, Harry" Truman was the President then, and newspaper is a hellishly poor insulation material compared to the modern alternatives--one of those instances when "old" is truly not better than "new" in construction techniques.  We love old homes, sort of.  

The rim joists were stuffed with newspaper from the last year these walls were opened up. "Give 'em Hell, Harry" Truman was the President then, and newspaper is a hellishly poor insulation material compared to the modern alternatives--one of those instances when "old" is truly not better than "new" in construction techniques. We love old homes, sort of.  

One way to think about the age of this house is to see that insulation was added when you could take an 11 day cruise of the Caribbean islands for $240.   

One way to think about the age of this house is to see that insulation was added when you could take an 11 day cruise of the Caribbean islands for $240.   

The old electric panel. We are upgrading to 200 amp service with an underground connection to the street (no wires hanging above the front lawn). 

The old electric panel. We are upgrading to 200 amp service with an underground connection to the street (no wires hanging above the front lawn). 

The old iron pipes, some heavily corroded, with a handful of old newspaper evident. When replaced, the new plumbing system should last at least another 100 years.  

The old iron pipes, some heavily corroded, with a handful of old newspaper evident. When replaced, the new plumbing system should last at least another 100 years.  

#2 son continuing his work on the many doors in the house.

#2 son continuing his work on the many doors in the house.

The new kitchen will be installed here. 

The new kitchen will be installed here. 

The next step is to frame large sections of the interior and begin the process of rebuilding. We've made a huge mess, and now we have to put this home back together. More to come in Winnetka Colonial Chronicles Part 3. 

 

 

 

 

Remodeling and Home Design