Dreaming of spring: flowers, fences and fun

Today seemed like the perfect day to write a blog post about plans for the backyard.  After living in a condo for many years our new home brought with it dreams of summer barbecues, lilac bushes, shading trees, tall glasses of lemonade and cool green grass.  Our reality is that there is still a lot of work to do to finish the house and get our new certificate of occupancy.  Still, a family can dream…

Our backyard today.

Our backyard today.

Although we moved into our house months ago, we are still working on the punch list with the contractor.  Unfortunately, the GC put us on the back burner, then the weather turned cold and what with the constant rain and freezing temperatures, we could not finish the back deck.  Thankfully, the railings and stairs were completed and only the stone deck surface needs to be installed.

In the fall we met with landscape designer, Dan Silverstein, whose services we “won” at our daughter’s school auction last winter.  He came out to see our yard and we discussed ideas for the space.  He took some measurements and we showed him some photos of backyards we liked.  Below is the yard before construction on the house.  We hacked down that tree closest to the building but need to remove the stump in the spring.

Back Yard Shot From Roof

Back Yard Shot From Roof

When looking at outdoor areas we tended to like clean modern spaces but we (I) definitely want an area with some wild flowers and an English garden feel.  We already know the design of fence we want but are worried about how much sun it will block out.

The inspiration photos:

fence

The narrow slats and wider spacing at the top allow for more light to get through.

flowers

We are going to have to use plantings that work well in shade and half sun, especially if we put wooden fence up.

We are going to have to use plantings that work well in shade and half sun, especially if we put wooden fence up.

And this one is a little on the dreaming side but not impossible (no TV just pool or hot/cold tub). hot tub

Our designer came back with a plan that we liked.  We were open to completely re-arranging the space but decided that our budget was not so we are planning to keep the basic bones but clean it up.

backyard plan

As weary urban dwellers, we definitely wanted to keep some grass.  In the long area with the plantings, we hope we have enough sunlight to have a small kitchen garden and some flowers.  In the back, we will probably go with bushes for privacy and to greenify things back there.  These plans are a good start and we liked the way Dan blended modern with natural elements like gravel around the tree and green plantings in the brick walkway.  When spring finally starts to bloom we will fine tune the plans and hopefully, if the rest of the house is done (remember we still have that rental unit to fix up), we will get to start on it.

The Devil is in the Detail

In one of our first posts, we noted the treasures and tribulations that we found in our old house.  Unfortunately, when you are in the process of a complete renovation some original details get lost.  I thought I’d go through and do an accounting of what we wanted to save and couldn’t, along with the few things that were a pleasant surprise.

1.  Fireplace

This was probably the biggest win.  When we brought some professionals (who shall remain nameless) through the house they speculated that the fireplaces were not marble and possibly were painted concrete.  After a lot of toil and trouble we went from this:

Treasure - upstairs fireplace

Treasure – Parlor room fireplace

To this:

IMAG0933

From this:

Trinity's Bedroom Fireplace

To this:

finished - kitchen

2.  Wooden Shutters

Saved!  After prying off years of paint we discovered that all of the original shutters were still intact.  Some were in better shape than others.

Treasure - original wooden shutters

Treasure – original wooden shutters

And this:

shutters2

To this:

shutters after

3.  Etched glass door

Saved!  From this:

back parlor floor

To this:

power room door

4.  Tin ceilings

These were not original to the house but were very old.  When people couldn’t afford the upkeep of their original plaster ceilings they tended to put up tin over them as a cheaper solution to repairing and skim coating plaster.  In the 70′s they just put in drop ceilings.  Although not original, they were very pretty so we wanted to keep them.

Treasure - art deco tin ceiling in kitchen

Treasure – art deco tin ceiling in the old original kitchen on ground floor had to go

We were able to save the tin in the hallway.

After – really just a paint job

hall

The kitchen ceiling was previously a bedroom ceiling.  We were able to save most of it but we had to incorporate it into the new construction.  We looked everywhere and could not find this pattern or the tin crown with the shells.  We think it came out pretty well.

223 Prospect Park 090

IMG_2680

ceiling patch

patched

kitchen ceiling

Old-Timey Bathroom AKA Powder Room

Pursuit of the High Tank Toilet

My husband was insistent on a high tank toilet in the powder room.  He first showed me an inspiration photo, (see below) which if you look closely is really dollhouse furniture.

tiny bathroom

We had recently been to a friend’s 1850′s Victorian home who had their original high-tank toilet and that sealed the deal or should I say our fate.  These toilets are not easy to find.  We tried to find one at architectural salvage places but in the end we bought a new one from The Renovators Supply.

Eventually the day came to install it.

Impediment #1:  According to the website this the toilet can be installed with a standard 12″ rough-in (distance from wall to center of drain pipe). Of course once the floor and drywall was installed and we attempted to install the toilet we discovered this was incorrect. The toilet we had was a rear feed toilet and there was not enough room for the pipe. It probably should have been a 15″ rough-in. Once again it’s best to have all your fixtures in the house before you start construction and double check everything. We contacted the seller who was very helpful and exchanged the bowl for a top feeding version which did fit.

Impediment #2:  Once the bowl was in the plumber (or rather the B team he sent) had never installed one of these wall mounted tanks and had no idea how to do it. With a smirk my husband says, “I’ll do it this weekend.”  I think he likes showing up the “professionals.”

Impediment #3:  After starting the installation it turned out that the chrome pipes that were provided were somewhat shorter than expected. Instead of the tank sitting above your head it would have sat at eye level. That did not have the period effect that we were looking for.  No problem, we bought some extra chrome pipe and extend it. It turns out chrome pipes longer than 1 foot are impossible to find. The good news was that along with the new top feed bowl we got a new chrome feed pipe. My husband got creative and jointed the two pipes together to a long 6 foot chrome flush pipe. Unfortunately, he didn’t have extra chrome pipe for the supply line and had to use copper. It is not perfect and I am sure some Victorian spirit in our house is saying, “why would you expose the plumbing like in our day when you can hide it, you morons.”

HTC 2235 a

Once the old-timey toilet was in we set out to get the sink and lighting hardware.  Again, we tried to find something old but could not find anything that was the correct size so we went with a 24″ Kasey pedestal sink that ended up matching the toilet bowl perfectly.

HTC 2230The lighting we picked out from Restoration Hardware.  They have great lighting as well as furniture and accessories that mimic the styles from the 30′s and 40′s that we like.  We also had a 20% off coupon, which helped with our choices.  These two lights are both in gun metal grey.  The light over the mirror is a vintage English oval double sconce and the ceiling light is a glass barn filament pendant.

We hope to get an antique oval mirror but for now bought this plain inexpensive round one from Ikea as a placeholder.  The walls are painted Benjamin Moore Oatmeal.

The door and its hardware were original to the house.  The etched glass has the New York State seal on it so someone must have worked for the city and somehow “acquired” this door.  We loved it and were excited to re-use but discovered once the glass was cleaned that parts of it are clear, which is not so desirable in a powder room.  Our solution was to put a rolling shade over it so when it is in use there is privacy but otherwise you can see the glass’s design.

pd

If anyone knows how to clean antique etched glass please let us know.  As you can see it is still brown in some areas that won’t come clean.  Or maybe that is part of its charm.