Thursday, January 28, 2010

Discovering a Floor

When we first toured the house, the floors were completely covered with brand new carpet. Our realtor said that there was probably just subfloor beneath it. On a whim, I pulled back a portion and saw a pretty grimy, darkstained mess but something told me I should sand a little bit and see what is actually there. I discovered that indeed there is nice mahogany wood flooring through much of the house. In what shape? It's over 100 years old and all sorts of things could happen including warping, breaks etc.

A brief History of Hardwood Flooring
By Stacey Kosha

"Hardwood floors were originally introduced in medieval times as a type of flooring used for multi-story buildings and usually consisted of two-foot wide planks of elm or oak. Later, wealthy Europeans began using fine wood flooring. Parquet wood flooring became very popular, but its price prohibited most of the middle class from its purchase. Since North America had more available timber, hardwood floors were offered at a much fairer price. Unsanded, unfinished pine planks were common (technically considered softwood).

In the late nineteenth century, hardwood flooring went into mass production. However, due to lack of knowledge about proper installation and lack of proper sealers and finishes available, it was perceived to have a lack of longevity. Carpet quickly overtook hardwood flooring in the market and was commonly installed over hardwood.

Today, hardwood flooring is far from lacking in popularity and is considered one of the most elegant and sought after types of flooring available."

Andrea and I talked about it and we thought we would first try and see if we can bring out the original floor in the parlor before deciding on anything else. So I put up a bunch of plastic sheeting to separate the parlor from the rest of the house and picked up $7 jug of "environmentally-friendly" varnish/paint remover, a pull scraper and some gloves and got to work. Because the remover isn't super harsh, it takes more time for the chemical to do its work but a little pre-sanding with 80grit paper before hand helps speed it up. Then pull scraping gently reveals a little bit of the original floor including the various scratches where, I assume, furniture and such existed. It actually looks beautiful when you strip the gunk and going after beauty is enough for me to continue on despite sore knees, wrists and hands.

I'm looking forward to my sister and brother-in-law visiting to see this as they are both antique experts.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Preservation Park

Victorian Inspiration

Occupying two blocks in the heart of downtown Oakland, Preservation Park is a Victorian neighborhood, a unique collection of historic residences transformed into the City’s most innovative workplace and event center.


In its 125-year history, Preservation Park has experienced life cycle changes common to many urban areas. The community started out in the 1870’s as an upscale residential neighborhood made up of elaborate Victorian homes. By the 1970’s, however, many of the large homes had been subdivided into rooming houses and the neighborhood had deteriorated into what planners at the time considered “redevelopment” material. All but five of the structures on the two-block site were demolished. The construction of a new freeway adjacent to Preservation Park also threatened to destroy a significant percentage of the neighborhood’s historic Victorian homes. To preserve these historic assets, the City of Oakland created a public/private partnership to relocate the endangered buildings and to renovate the regrouped residential structures for a new life as a business neighborhood.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tuscan Wall

Saturday I used acrylic paints and started painting the "Tuscan Wall" - I've never done this before so I took my usual approach to painting - pick colors I like and wing it.I was most surprised by the hint of a sunflower that presented itself at the end.

Then on Sunday George asked me to paint the other wall... so sure enough, I did. Lo and behold, a red sunflower appeared this time. That's what I love most about creating art whether painting, collage, or writing. The surprise of what shows up!
The finished wall (with the TV in the way)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

More Building and Painting

This is the brick work George put under & around the gas stove heater.

This is the bookshelf George built (he can do anything!) and I painted the trim again.
At this moment, the table you see below is being stained a darker cherry wood color.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I love the work George did on the pantry. Isn't that impressive? It's so much better, nicer, and functional. Today I painted the little leaves on the top trim.

Yesterday I also did a canvas painting. This is a little fuzzy but the quote says: "We are the hurdles we leap to be ourselves." ~Michael McClure

The old "Ironing Board in the Kitchen' Trick

So we have this quaint, wooden ironing board in the middle of our kitchen. Neither of us Iron and in reality, technology makes it possible to buy wrinkle free clothing!

Nonetheless we both like the look of the old ironing board and we are trying to figure out what to do with it. We need to take it out to make room for kitchen cabinets but where do we put it so it doesn't get in the way yet would be fun to show people?

Your suggestions would be welcome.

According to the Internet, "wood ironing boards in the kitchen were a common place in England." And the ironing board was patented in 1858. I've started reading VALLEY OF THE MOON by Jack London, which is set in W. Oakland around 1900's, and it starts out by painting a grim picture of young and old women sweating it out in an ironing factory where they iron clothes for 10+ hours a day for slave wages. No ventilation, no breaks, just endless ironing drudgery in W. Oakland so the upper class can walk around wrinkle-free. I wonder if I can make a movie about it?

Remaking the Pantry

So Andrea really likes the pantry thing. The problem is that the shelves were warped, crooked and very inefficient. I decide to remake the pantry for her for the New Year and had only a few days to do it.

Taking out the shelves was no problem as they were not nailed to anything. The pieces of wood holding them up were screwed into the wall pretty badly and they pulled out by hand. If anything heavy were to be put on them, they would have easily fallen.

Now I wanted to install a new shelving system that DID NOT bolt to the surrounding walls but were tight against the walls so that they could not fall over yet could be disassembled and pulled out in the future if necessary.

The process went smoothly until I noticed that there is about a 2" difference between the length between the walls measured at the bottom and top. Not to mention that the floor slopes to the right. Eventually, I was able to put up level, tight shelving in a room that is crooked and sloping. I reused all the screws I pulled out of the old pieces and framed the new shelves with left over wood from a previous renovation and repainted it using left over paint from the previous owner.

We finished it together around 8pm New Year's eve. :)