Wednesday, April 29, 2015

happy birthday to me

Actually my birthday was several days ago, but architectural pieces seem to be the gift that keeps on giving...

Before we left for Chicago a couple of weeks ago, a mantel showed up on craigslist.  While the lower section was quite plain, the overmantel was a spectacular aesthetic movement piece with a rainbow shaped beveled mirror, fretwork and floral carving.  My original overmantels were likely something similar (although ghost marks indicate they were substantially larger).  The price was far higher than anything I could afford, but I sent off my usual e-mail then put it out of mind.  After all, I had plans to hit all the salvage stores in Chicago and was hoping to find something to bring back.  Well, the salvage yards, while great, had nothing to offer me, so I was amazed when just a week later the owner of the mantel accepted my offer.

photo from craigslist
I was momentarily terrified when she said the mirrors would have to be replaced (I was certain they had been broken as the mantel was being removed, but luckily she just thought the foxing was undesirable.  Having to replicate that mirror would cost more than I paid for the mantel!

Not surprisingly, the house it came from was beautiful, and I'm more than a little sad that I'm responsible for making it less so (but if I didn't buy it, someone else would have I suppose).  The icing on the cake was that the majolica tile was falling off the wall, and she happily gave it all to us so she didn't have to pay her contractor to remove it.  We've attempted to salvage tile from a number of houses that were being demolished and have never had much luck - meanwhile, we were able to get 95% of these off intact with just a putty knife...

Now a disclaimer, I must have worn my camera out in Chicago because these pictures are terrible, but if I keep putting things off I swear I'll never post anything.

Despite the work remaining in the room, it's certainly a far cry from where it started...

listing photo

Friday, April 3, 2015

chim chiminey

well, hello...

Have you ever had a nightmare it which you're frantically trying to do something, but everything's moving in impossibly slow motion?  That's been the past few weeks here.  Slow.  As.  Sludge...

But there are people on my roof now, we saw the Decemberists a few nights ago, and the chimney is done.  Betcha didn't even know we were working on the chimney eh?  Well, we have been.  For months.

We're lucky enough to still have all five original chimneys, 4 on the main 1886 house, and one on the 1890's kitchen addition.  All were in danger of collapse when we bought the house, and we rebuilt the four main ones immediately because they tied into the slate roof work and flashing.  Not to mention had they collapsed they would have done major damage to the new roof and gutters.

The one on the end of the kitchen wing on the other hand was willfully ignored.  We weren't working on that section of roof yet, and other than someone parking under it, nothing would be harmed if it came down of its own accord.  Unfortunately, the spalling bricks impacted the plaster walls all the way down, but that damage was done long before we came into the picture.

the moss is a nice touch isn't it?  This is not what the inside of a chimney should look like!

So long story short, we met a new mason, he was willing to do our bidding (it's quite a bit harder than you'd think to find people willing to use the proper materials for restoration), and he didn't think we were strange for wanting to put our "collection" up top.  You see, when the top of this chimney had partially collapsed before we bought the house, it lost it's massive sandstone cap, which would have been very expensive to reproduce.  It was also the ugly stepsister to our other chimneys.  So, two house demolitions and one freecycle pickup later (all over the four plus years we've been here), and the forgotten chimney has a bit of eclectic British charm.

nicely bedded down in 4 inches of mortar

Perhaps the happiest part of all this is seeing yet more of my "clutter" get incorporated into the house and out of the way.  Unless you're in the enviable position of being Scrooge McDuck, the only way to tackle a massive project like this is to grab materials as you find them, even if it means storing them for years.  Yes, your friends and family may seek professional help for you (even though in this case I am a professional), but just remember, they're not the ones taking on an impossible project (I mean, if they truly cared they'd offer to pay right?).