Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Circa 1998 - 2002, Part 1

I grew up with a real estate mother who was always taking me through houses. I learned to appreciate a good house from a house that had potential from a house that no amount of money could fix. This was the 70's and raising a house and rebuilding wasn't part of our culture or vocabulary. My mother was and is, also a closet interior designer. Always moving furniture around, ripping out walls, repainting - you never knew what you'd find when you came home. She also had a passion for junking and collecting antiques before it was fashionable. She taught me to find a treasure on the side of the road or in a little crowded store. The thrill of the hunt was part of my DNA and my mother nurtured it.

My step-dad is an architect and once we blended families we needed a much larger house. As a result, I spent my high school years living in a house that he was building for us. After cramming 5 kids into a small rental for over a year, we bit the bullet and moved into the shell of the house. The kitchen wasn't finished and we had one bathtub as the only running water and sheets as divider walls. A wood stove heated the entire 5,000 square foot house. Needless to say we spent a lot of time in our ski clothes. We spent weekends shoveling gravel or dirt or whatever needed to be done. It was a family effort. It was glorious and fun. I learned a lot about houses and myself.

Fast forward to 1998. Seattle was in the middle of the real estate boom years. Houses had many bids over the asking price or weren't even coming on the market. Prices where climbing by the day.

My husband and I had been married a year. We wanted our first house and wanted to stay in the city. We happened to find a 1911 Craftsman house in Wallingford that had just come on the market and after I ran through it for 5 minutes, and we made an offer.

It was one of the worst houses I'd ever seen.

It had been a rental for over 20 years. Ceilings with water damage; A dead bird in the shag carpet of the scary torture attic (and I mean scary attic!); One bathroom where if you sat down on the toilet you're knees hit the bathtub; Pepto Bismol pink walls in the living room and original 1920's wallpaper in the dining room. The kitchen was so bad it wasn't even functional.

We were young and naive. We didn't understand the scope of the project we had just embarked on and it became our life. We were fortunate enough to have great friends who lived a street away that offered to let us move into their basement while we got the house to move in condition. Meaning, once again and not the last, working plumbing. We spent every hour outside of work rehabbing our house on a newlywed budget. It was sweat equity at it's best and this was prior to craigslist so it was harder to find treasures on a budget.

We moved into the main floor of the house, took the upstairs down to the studs and then closed the upstairs door until we had the time and money to tackle the giant project. It took us about 2 years to finally get to it.

Other than plumbing and electrical we did everything ourselves. Raising ceilings, removing a brick fireplace than ran through all three floors of the house, tiling kitchens and bathrooms, installing wainscoting and cabinets, creating a patio with the used bricks from the chimney, fixing leaded windows. You name it - we did it. We worked many nights after work until 1 am and did the same the next night. Did I mention that we didn't have a garage and it was 25 steep steps to the front door? 25 steps to haul all of our materials -- claw foot tubs, bricks! Good thing I was in my twenties.

By 2002 we had our first son and needed more space. The house was finished and we needed to move. We were addicting to renovations and we needed a new project.

Houses, remodeling and decorating is in my blood. Anything (well, almost anything when it comes to houses) is possible if you are willing to do the work or pay for it to be done. It can be very rewarding and fun.

I hope you enjoy the before and during photos.

Living Room, Dining Room During. The pink walls are still visible but the original wallpaper had been stripped by this time.

Kitchen during the demo phase. The fireplace ran through this room so we had to take everything done to the studs and start over.

Me. This was a common sight during those years. My friends couldn't believe that I would get dirty and do this work myself. It was normal to stop by and see me with a tool belt and a nail gun putting up wainscoting or installing hexagon tile. Very glamorous.

Part of the original bathroom. You can see where the tub was. All floor joists had to be replaced. All in all, this room was gutted to the studs.

Bathroom during construction. I found an original claw foot tub and did the bathroom in the period style.

Upstairs on the day of demo.

Chimney that ran through the house. This is an upstairs view in the middle of demo. You can see the sagging walls and water damage. Pretty tile floor that was under the scary shag orange carpet. Dead bird is gone by now.

Once the walls were down. Chimney still has to go....

The upstairs once it was completely gutted. A blank canvas.

Check back for the "after" pictures.

1 comment:

seattle shopping girl said...

cant wait to see the after photos! Love the recent pictures on the side of your blog...

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