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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Refinishing Our 100-Year-Old Floors

Oh, hello friends. It's been a minute since we've posted any house updates. And that's really because we've just been plugging away at finishing our guest room. I originally planned to wait until the whole room was done to show you our refinished floors upstairs, but decided I was too excited. So today, I'm showing you our newly refinished guest room floors, and sharing what the process was like to bring them back to life.

When we started to conceptualize the design of this room, we went back and forth on the floors a lot. It originally had carpeting, and after peeling back a corner one day shortly after moving in, we saw painted hardwoods. We were so new to the whole house thing that we just made a mental note of them, and then really didn't think much of it. Once we started to work on the guest bathroom, we had to rip all the carpeting out of this room anyway, and saw that the hardwoods under here were actually rather amazing. 

When we started to work on these floors, they were gapping a lot, had been painted a mixture of brown and pea-soup green, and we were baffled as to how to fix them. I have to give serious props to Josh here because he did almost all the research and work on these. And my friends, let me tell you, he did some serious research. 

The floor after peeling back the carpeting.



What did he find? Well, for starters, these were likely original to the house. Based on the kinds of nails we were finding in them, he was able to pin point a timeframe of 1870-1900. Previous owners, as well as the two of us, think our house dates back to the Civil War era, so it definitely made sense. The floors are also pine, so not technically a hardwood, I know, but for the sake of making things easier on myself, I'll probably keep referring them to hardwoods. 

The original nails that were used for the floors.



Once we realized these were probably original to the house, it killed me that they had been painted and covered in carpeting. I get that not everyone likes hardwoods, especially in bedrooms, but these floors are gorgeous! They're beautiful, wide planks, and show the history of the house. So, our work began to refinish them, and bring them back to their glory. 

Josh started by carefully getting the boards up from the joists. We debated just living with the sizable gaps between the planks, or ripping them up and starting over again, but we knew we wanted to do this the right way. Just getting these things off the joists was quite the project because of the huge nails they used back in the day. It took a while and a lot of muscle.

Josh had to install a couple of extra joists, and also laid down a good subfloor before re-installing the boards. Also, I helped with the subfloor. I do things, too, you know :)

Getting one of the new joists into place.





The subfloor all done!
Then, he began sanding. He had a sample of the wood tested for lead since there were so many layers of paint, and of course, it came back positive. He also did a lot of research to decide between using chemicals to strip the paint versus sanding the paint down. We really wanted to avoid the use of harsh chemicals, so we were glad to find that sanding was actually the preferred method for a variety of reasons. To us, it made the most sense to sand down the paint because you have to sand the boards after using the chemicals anyway. So, it just seemed logical, and also, we got to avoid using chemicals. 

Josh ran out to buy a special mask and belt sander, and took each of the boards outside to sand off all the paint. He had to start with a rough grit to just get the paint off, and then had to go back over each board with a fine grit to smooth them all out. He said he saw at least four different colors of paint: white, red, brown and green.





Then, we had to decide if it was worth it to fill in the nail holes with wood filler (see nail hole in above photo). We actually didn't decide this until just before we put them back onto the subfloor because this would domino into another question - are we staining the planks? We also went back and forth on this, and here is what we decided: 

I stained a test board a few different colors. I used all light colors from Minwax, and they all came out way darker than expected because, well, that's just the nature of soft wood. I knew from staining a lot of pine over these past two years that this would happen, but I had to do it just for peace of mind that this wasn't the best option for us. I wanted the floors to be light, so we just decided to not stain them at all. Which also led to us deciding not to fill in the nail holes because we wouldn't be able to stain them the same color as the rest of the board. Therefore, making them super obvious. Now that the floors are installed, I'm actually so happy we didn't fill in the nail holes. This decision allowed us to maintain their character, and gave them a more rustic look, which is what we both wanted. 

My test board for staining. I tried Puritan Pine and Golden Pecan from Minwax,
and they both turned out dark and red (and also, pretty much the same color).
After that, these little guys were ready to go back down to the floor, and Josh nailed them into place with a special floor nailer to make sure they were secure.



We have yet to seal them with poly because we decided to wait until the rest of the room was completely done. For now, they'll get covered in plastic tarps while we finish drywalling, priming and painting the room. The very last step will be to seal the floors, and let them cure before we move all the furniture in.

iPhone pano photo of the floors installed.




We look at the floors now, and can't believe what a difference it makes, and it was worth every second of work. There's good news and bad news with these floors, too. The good news is that these hardwoods are underneath all our current carpeting and flooring on the original side of our house (so, all our bedrooms - except the master, which is already done, the upstairs hallway, the staircase, the two downstairs living areas and the downstairs main entryway. The bad news? We have to repeat this process in every single one of those spaces. And, it'll be totally worth it.

The rest of the guest room? We estimate it will be done by Thanksgiving. Josh actually has some extra vacation days this year, so he plans to take a few days off work to make sure this room gets finished just in time for the holidays. And, even though I had a design in mind for this since pretty much right after we moved in, I created a new design just for the Christmas/Winter seasons, and I'm way, way too excited about it. I may want to sleep in here during the month of December. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Farmhouse Fall Decor: A Few Updates From Last Year

You guys, fall is here. The leaves are crunching under my feet. The air has that smell. I've already had like 15 apple cider donuts and zero regrets. I stocked up on all the Trader Joe's pumpkin stuff. I'm living in my flannel shirts. And I'm drinking hard cider on the weekends. So obviously, it's time to break out the fall decorations.

For the most part this season, I've kept everything the same as last year, which you can read about here. But it's also in my nature to try new things with decor, so I did update a few things for this year.

Right after Labor Day, when apple season began, I put out these faux apple branches that I found at Michaels. I peed a little when I saw them because one, they look totally real, and two, I'd been looking for something just like this as a fun little pre-fall, not-quite-pumpkin season decoration. These little guys were rather elusive; smaller Michaels stores didn't even get them, and my store, which is a larger one, only got 6 total, and I bought them all. I put them in the lanterns we have on our sofa table, and they had their moment from Labor Day until about two days ago when I replaced them with faux leaf branches. I think I want to put them in our kitchen until it's time for Christmas because they're just so pretty.




I will say, though, when I took out the apple branches and added the maple stems, it made the room feel so much cozier. I wish I could grow an actual maple tree in our living room, just for the fall season, so it would be extra leafy (and therefore, more cozy, and also, awesome).

One thing we never do is decorate for Halloween. We actually really enjoy Halloween because we eat fun-sized candy bars all month long, watch scary-ish movies and eat more candy. But, we don't have kids, so decorating for a short-lived holiday just seems pointless when you can decorate for the entire fall season at once and be done with it. However, I spotted this burlap ghost garland on Birch Lane, and I couldn't stop thinking about how cute they would look on our mantel. So, one moment of weakness later, and here they are. And I love them. They're neutral enough that they kind of just go with everything else, and they don't really stand out too much as Halloween-specific. Josh didn't like them at first, but I think they're growing on him.







Last year, I wasn't in love with our TV stand. I wanted it to feel a little more cozy, so I decided to add some taller maple branches on either side, and have them come into the TV a little (so it's kind of like we're watching TV by some pretty trees), and then surround them with pumpkins. And, I like it. I like it a lot, actually.



Night view.
The hanging throws on our ladder are the same as last year, but I decided to keep the cotton wreath up. It was partially out of laziness, and partially because I kind of like the white cotton with the rich colors of the throw together. 




In our little coffee table crate, I decided to fill it with orange and white pumpkins, and add a white pumpkin/acorn greenery stem to the vase inside.




Since finishing our mudroom earlier this year, I've been keeping seasonal decor elements in there since it's the first thing we see when we walk in. Last year, I had this crab apple wreath on our front door, but I really like having it hanging in our mudroom. And I bought two of these plaid throws to hang on our hooks to grab if it's chilly outside for our walks with Betty. I also got this new gather doormat because, well, it was right up my ally.





In our dining room, I actually really liked what I did last year, but I couldn't let go of the idea of these glass pumpkin cloches with flameless candles inside. I bought the greenery at Michaels, and added some little pumpkin picks and real white striped pumpkins to them, and they give off such a wonderful glow at night. I'm not sure if I'll do this every year, but I do love it for now.




Unnecessary photo of what they look like at night. 
In our bedroom I didn't do much, but I found a new garland online that I thought was perfect for our little shelf above our bed (which we finally got back up since taking it down for our bedroom window remodel). I liked how it was mostly green, with white pumpkins and acorns. So it adds just enough fall without going crazy.



I hate to admit it, but I'm also already getting way too excited for Christmas. Like, I already have design visions in my head of a few things I want to change around from last year. Until then, stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Vermont Birthday Getaway/Anniversary Celebration

Josh turned 35 on October 2, so I wanted to do something special for him, especially since he works tirelessly on this house to make it our home. I had so many ideas running through my head, and really, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to surprise him. I thought about camping in the Adirondacks with lots of hiking, a B&B stay somewhere where the whole point is to do nothing, and even considered a weekend stay in the Hudson Valley, in the town where our first apartment was. I had actually almost booked a canvas tent getaway (even had my credit card ready to go in my hand!), but at the last minute before I hit "reserve," I had an idea.

We honeymooned 8 years ago at an inn in Southern Vermont, and we've always said we wanted to go back. We loved our stay, but it rained the entire week we were there (I'm not even dramatizing. It literally rained every single day we were there, and we never got to use the little private porch outside our room that we were so excited about). The inn was lovely, and we spent our days as newlyweds just walking around, buying maple syrup, staring at trees, eating at some of the most amazing restaurants, and just being totally relaxed. That's just what Josh needed for this weekend, so I booked the same room we stayed at 8 years ago, and somehow managed to keep it a secret for months. Months. This was so hard because I tell Josh everything about every second of my life, and I almost slipped up a few times.

The night before leaving, I gave him a card that explained what we were doing, and I told him I got the same room we stayed in during our honeymoon. We packed our suitcases a few moments later, and the next day, on a Friday, we took half days at work, and then drove off to start our weekend.

On our way, we stopped at one of the neighboring towns to our inn, and grabbed lunch and walked around. One of my gifts to Josh was a coupon to buy a book (because we love wandering local bookstores and buying books to commemorate our trips). We each picked out our book, wandered through a country store and some other boutiques and we were on our way to the inn.





It was such a great feeling being able to bring Josh back here. On our honeymoon, we rented a car because we flew in from Chicago, where we lived at the time. And when Josh went to pick up the rental car, they gave him a huge Grand Marquis, even though we reserved a compact car to cruise around the country roads of Vermont. They were out of compact cars, and I remember when Josh pulled up in front of the hotel where we got married with this thing, I laughed hysterically at this boat he was driving. It had a bench seat in the front, it made us feel like senior citizens, and it didn't exactly zip around the curvy Vermont country roads. It was a running joke we had the whole week, and the memories came flooding back when we pulled in. I wish I had taken a picture of us with this car because it was so not our style.




Ownership at the inn had changed since we last stayed, and I was nervous it wouldn't quite live up to our expectations because we remembered this place to be truly amazing. We both couldn't believe when we walked in that absolutely nothing had changed at all. And when we got to our room, it was exactly the same, except for one chair they replaced. Even the clock radio hadn't been updated, and they still had the same stack of CD's next to it. It was rather amazing, and we both looked at each other and said, "We've stepped back in time!"

The little mudroom area of the inn gave me the best feeling.
We've been talking about doing brick pavers in our mudroom, and this kind of sealed the deal for me. 

The main common area downstairs. The wood beam was gorgeous. 

Our room. See picture below from our honeymoon 8 years ago.
I wish I had taken better picture on our honeymoon. I can't even find the original files on my hard drive,
so these are terrible quality. But Josh snapped this on our honeymoon while we sat in our room.




They had bottled water and homemade cookies waiting for us in our room. The card was Josh's birthday card from me. That did not come with the room ;)



The view from the front porch of our inn.

I had a moment with the apple trees.

Once we were settled, we drove off to a scenic overlook we stumbled upon on our honeymoon. It's called the 100-mile lookout, and I'm not sure if you can actually see 100-miles into the distance or not, but it was a perfectly clear day, and we had great views. They say you can see Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the distance.

Selfie from the overlook. I don't know why the picture came out so terribly. I mean, I took it with a phone and everything.


The overlook on our honeymoon.
From there, we drove to Brattleboro for dinner, and ate outside at Whetstone Station, which I hand-picked for Josh because of their huge beer selection. We sat outside overlooking the river on a perfectly chilled-but-not-too-cold fall evening.

View from our table for dinner.

We kind of loved the menus on a tablet.


I had the sweet potato and black bean burger, which was amazing.

One of the highlights of this particular inn is the country breakfast, which is included in your room rate. We waddled downstairs the next morning and sat in one of the two dining rooms overlooking the mountains and had amazing breakfasts of apple cinnamon pancakes, eggs, scones, juices, toasts and anything else we wanted. We even had a visitor from the innkeeper's dog, so my life was pretty complete.



Sophie welcomed us to breakfast.

For lunch, we wandered into a neighboring town to stop and get nachos at this place we found on our honeymoon. Josh loved this little tavern, and left that day saying they were some of the best nachos he'd ever had, so we had to go back, of course. Sadly, the tavern has gone downhill since our last visit, so it wasn't quite the same, but we had some beers and made the best of it.

The nachos we found on our honeymoon.
This year, they were kind of sad, but the memory lives on.

The rest of the day called for rain, of course! It drizzled on and off the whole day, but we made the most of it. We stopped at some covered bridges we had visited on our honeymoon, and also went to an apple orchard that had the cutest little barn gift shop. We didn't pick any apples because the rain didn't let up, but we hung out inside, ate some cider donuts, sipped on hot cider, and bought a few things to take home with us. The barn glowed with string lights and had some really cool vintage pieces inside. It was a lovely little pit stop, actually.

We were ready to explore, even in the rain.




Me on our honeymoon.

Green Mountain Orchards.




After leaving there, we strolled through a few country stores that were on our way to our next destination, bought maple syrup and other goodies, and then landed at Grafton Cheese Factory. Since cheese is my favorite food group (next to bread), I was in heaven. They had lovely products in addition to a wonderfully curated wine shop and of course, their cheeses. We sampled pretty much every cheese they had, and settled on the apple cider cheese. It sounds kind of questionable, but it was actually amazing and we wished we had gotten more once we were home.

Give me all the cheese. All of it.




One of the great things about this weekend getaway was that I didn't plan a whole lot, so we were able to wind down and take a nap in our room for the rest of the afternoon (well actually, Josh read his new book, and I passed out for about an hour, and it was glorious).

Dinner that night was downstairs in our inn, which was a three-course gourmet meal, and it was incredible. It was nice because while the meal is fancy, the atmosphere is definitely very Vermont. Meaning, we both wore jeans and flannels to dinner, so we were so comfortable. We both started with the asparagus soup, and I had the butternut squash risotto with roasted brussels sprouts and lobster. Josh has squash tortellini with roasted vegetables. For dessert, I had the homemade apple crisp and Josh went for the creme brulee. We're super casual people and very rarely get nice meals out, so this was a treat and the meal was fantastic.

Asparagus soup with creme fraiche.

Lobster with butternut squash risotto and roasted brussels sprouts.

Apple crisp, to die for.
Inside the inn is a little tiny tavern. It seats two people, and it's right down the hall from the dining room, so Josh wanted to sit in there and have a night cap. He was born for the generations of going to old-fashioned bars and drinking manhattans, so he loved this part. Plus, we had the whole place to ourselves, since you know, the maximum capacity was two. Tavern for two! That's what they should call it.




I'm pretty sure that this was Josh's favorite part of the weekend.
Our actual room was off of a really nice common area that's kind of tucked away, and was set-up like a library. While Josh finished his scotch, we were able to cuddle on the couch and play a game of chess before heading to our room for the night. It was a really lovely, relaxing day, despite the rain.




The next morning, we had breakfast in bed. We did this on our honeymoon, so I thought it would be fun to relive the experience. We were able to sleep in, wake up to pancakes, eggs and everything else, which was delivered to our room, and eat right in bed. We took our time, enjoying the meal, and  eventually crawled out of bed to get ready to start our journey back home.

Scrambled eggs, english muffin, apple cinnamon pancakes & scones.

Homemade granola and greek yogurt, various jams for our toast.
Not pictured, the wild mushroom and chevre omelette that Josh ate before I could snap a picture.
We stopped along the way in Bennington, a town in Vermont we used to visit a lot more before we bought our house (because our old apartment was only about an hour away). So we stopped at another country store we always loved to visit and got a few more goodies to bring home. We came home with so much fall food, and I have zero regrets.






Two days flew by, and while it would have been nice to have better weather on Saturday, it actually felt good to slow down and not have so much planned. We both enjoyed it so much that there was talk of possibly doing a winter Vermont getaway in a few months. My wheels are turning so I can figure out a way to make that happen.
 
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