Sunday, September 12, 2021

Cuttin' the Rug...

 Cuttin' the Rug...

Slowly, Laase is revealing herself to me. As I work on trimming back the fluff that was added on over the years, and help her get back to her true self, she rewards me with glimpses into the things that made her grand in her day.

Recap: Remember the white carpet?

That's my able assistant, Cody at the top of the stairs!

I have never done much in the way of renovation myself, so I called a floor specialist to see about removing the carpet. As anyone with pets knows, white carpet will look nice for maybe 5 minutes after you clean it, before a cat vomits on it, or the dogs track in dirty footprints from the yard. It really had to go!

The floor specialist confirmed that there were hardwood floors under the carpet, but would not consent to remove the carpet without an additional contract to refinish the floors. I'm more of a look and see kind of gal. I wanted to see what the floors looked like before agreeing to that, especially since it would mean removing myself and the pets from the house for 4 - 5 days while the work was completed.  Total cost for the effort was about $6000.

Next call was to a handyman service to see if I could just hire the labor to pull the carpet and the tack strips. After calls to 3 different services who would not even return my call, I found one! It would be about $3000 worth of labor to spend the day pulling the carpets.

At this point, I started to seriously consider tackling the project myself. How hard could it be? I took a deep breath, and dived in.

I decided to start on the stairs, as there would be no furniture to move, and there was already a corner pulled up to confirm that there was wood under there. The little landing area went pretty easily, and I started to get the hang of how to pull up the tack strips, which the thoughtful carpet installer had seen fit to nail down pretty thoroughly. I worked my way down and .... what???

The area between steps (there must be a term for that) was painted! Ha - I just Googled it. It's called a riser. So, the risers are painted. I wonder how long ago that was done!

Now I was excited! It was like archaeology - digging in and finding something that hadn't been seen in a long time.

I called my friend Eric and rattled on about my discovery. Intrigued, he gave up on his planned bike ride and came over to help.

The carpet was so thoroughly nailed and tacked to the stairs that it required a good bit of strength to pull it loose. I left the stairs to Eric and got to work on the main floor carpet, which was much easier to pull up.  My hope was that I would find the floors to be in good condition without immediate need of major repair or refinishing. Eric was skeptical but, there was only one way to find out.

I started in a corner, and signs were very encouraging. 3/4" fir that looked to be original, and was in super good condition. I used a carpet knife to cut manageable pieces of the carpet, and a hammer and the flat end of an old rock hammer I had, to get the tack strips up.  Eric had some better tools, but the stairs being more of a challenge, I did not try to mooch them from him!

If you take on a job like this, make sure you have some gloves. Those tack strips they use to hold the carpet down? You don't want to work with them with bare hands, trust me on that.

Hey, let's check back in on Eric and the stairs! (Does that sound like the name of a band? )

Such pretty painted steps! I still have about 20,000 staples to pull out, we just ran out of steam yesterday, and I don't need Eric's muscles for that! Then, some Murphy's oil soap I am thinking? They are pretty dirty but I want to clean them carefully so as not to damage the painted sections.

OH - the main floor! It's not totally done - I cut around the heavy furniture, and we will move that another day and pull that carpet, but here is a sneak peek...

That's Hannah modeling our beautiful new/old wood floors for your enjoyment...They need to be gently cleaned, but the finish is good. It looks like they've been under carpet for a long time! No damage, no traffic patterns, no fading really. Just beautiful wood floors that completely change the character of the room.

And Laase House, herself? She's happy to have shed that extra, unneeded layer of wool. She feels happier and lighter and more like her old pretty self. I think the two of us have some fun times ahead. I do know that by doing the work with my own hands, I feel a deeper connection to her. We are partners now - this is becoming more and more a joint venture between her and I. Who knows what treasure we will discover next?

Thursday, September 9, 2021

"When you buy a new house..."

 "When you buy a new house, go slowly though the house. Be polite, introduce yourself, so it can introduce itself to you." ~ "Under the Tuscan Sun" - Frances Mayes

Some people are afraid of old houses. They think there could be ghosts who would not welcome your presence. Floors ready to cave in. Foundations just looking to fail the minute you sign on the dotted line. For me, I think a little common sense along with a pair of wide open eyes and some good advice from a contractor go a long way. 

Laase House seems to be like a friendly old gal with some itches that need to be scratched. She's been revealing her itchy spots to me gradually. There's a wasp nest above one of her curved Victorian  windows that needs dealing with. Some previous owner, for some unknown reason, cemented the gas fireplace fixture onto the hearth so that it can't be opened and serviced, added some glamorous 1980's vintage stone tiles, and replaced what was likely a lovely old mantel with something new that Laase isn't really comfortable with. The master bath is an absolute enigma, with a toilet placed so that when you sit on it, your knees hit the wall, a mirror over the sink that is perfect for inspecting your waistline, and a shelf placed over the sink so that you can hardly use the sink. Behind the bathroom is a secret closet with an old, old door that looks like it's been forgotten for at least a century. I'm interested in all of these things, and willing to take the time to get to the bottom of them. 

I was so excited to plant some flowers in the front yard, and got some pretty echinacea to start with - just a small offering to the small raised garden right by the front door. Something to please the bees and look pretty and let Laase know that I wanted her to look pretty. I found, under the layers of ancient mulch, that landscape fabric had been placed there some long time ago, and the dirt underneath was almost cement like in quality from the lack of any possible interaction with the natural world. I'm not sure the echinacea will be able to thrive there without some serious interventions but they are making a gallant effort.

You'd look sad too if you were trying to grow in this soil!

We have our work cut out for us, Laase and I. She has a lot of talking to do, and I have a lot of listening. But like a shepherd cutting the matted wool off of a sheep that has been too long neglected, we will find our way back to the things that matter, free ourselves from the burden of well intentioned mistakes, and scratch those itches that need scratching.

Thrive Lot is coming on September 17 to get their first look at the land and begin the planning phase for bringing this property back to life. I can't wait! 

Next week, I have a bathroom designer coming to help solve the mystery of the master bath and the secret closet. 

This afternoon, the wasps will be addressed, and hopefully the gas fireplace freed from the cement footings it was given maybe 15 years ago. And did I mention the ancient, stained white carpet that I suspect is hiding the original hardwood floors in the living/dining room? Might get a peek under that later today. Slowly, but with great love and determination, we begin.

The windows behind the fireplace are believed to be original...

Why in the world would you do this?


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

New beginnings in an old house

Laase House. Built in 1900 on a piece of land purchased in 1897 from its original owners, and now a historic landmark in the town of Lakewood,  Colorado. 

I purchased this house in June of 2021, after deciding it was time to come down from the dizzying heights of my little cabin on the road up to Mt. Evans, where the winters were proving too harsh and the summers too full of the danger of wildfires for my comfort level. In another 4 or 5 years I hope to be able to retire. It is time to move closer to town.

I've always had an innate reverence for older homes. I grew up in Cranford, NJ in a house that was built in the 1930's and still had some old antiques from the past lives of former owners stashed in the basement when we moved in. I love the workmanship, the stylish graces that are no longer cost effective to build into a home. I love the sense of history, and the sense of the many lives lived in this refuge over the past hundred and twenty years. When you embrace a home like this, it feels as if it embraces you right back. It knows what it means to be a home. It has experience at sheltering a family. I fell in love with Laase House the minute I saw it.

This is the story, still to evolve, of a dream. A dream of a garden - one might even call it my Secret Garden. I was such a fan of the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett - it spoke to me about regeneration, something unloved and unwanted could seem to be dead, but still be brought back to life.

Laase House, back in its early days, was the main home to a farm that I am told consisted mostly of fruit trees. Gradually it was sub divided and sold off to provide housing for soldiers returning from service to our country overseas. Its gardens were forgotten over the years and replaced by landscaping and landscape fabric that have nearly destroyed the soil. Difficult to maintain grass dies off each year as the summers get hotter and hotter.  Weeds from the drainage ditch in front of the house invade the lawn, such as it is.

It's a grand old house, but it looks sad right now, to me, that nothing really grows here. It wants to be a farmhouse again, it tells me. Old homes tend to speak to me because I am willing to listen, I think.  And I AM listening, and I agree. 

I'm teaming up with a company called Thrive Lot. They specialize in just this thing - getting rid of the non native grass we all seem to love, and bringing a landscape back to nature, to something that is sustainable and gives back, instead of just constantly taking.

One of their Master Growers will be coming here soon to survey the land and see what we can do together to bring it back to its former glory... well maybe not to that, but hopefully to something better, more sustainable, and something that will give back by supporting pollinators, helping to feed people... and simply being beautiful.

As it is, today - summer of 2021

Ditch filled with invasive weeds that migrate to the yard

Home as seen from the street

Barren courtyard and backyard - really need some love back here!

I'll let you all know how it goes - it is going to be a journey, but land is a limited commodity - they're not making much more of it these days. Can this land become fruitful again? Time and sweat will be involved, along with the help of some experts. Let's see how it goes!

You saw her bathing on the roof...

 Or - the unstoppable force meets the immoveable object.... Today was the day that we moved the big cast iron clawfoot tub from the garage t...