Monday, May 31, 2010

From the Comstock Lode to Urban Ore

It has been an inspiring fun week. Andrea was really taken with the bridge lamp we saw at the Virginia City B&B and learned a few tricks on how to cobble one together.

Distressed window art we made -

So we usually go to URBAN ORE, one of the best salvage places in the Bay Area where you can find many Victorian materials for cheap. We found a bridge lamp in great shape for $30 and replaced the light for $10 at HD. The light fixture was about $1 from Urban Ore and viola! We had our own bridge lamp in the span of an afternoon. We also found a litho of Montmarte for $2 that worked out great for our parisian window artwork.

Professional German Etching on red wall -

Luck can be defined in a few different ways. I like to think of it as being intuned with your intuition and a happy-go-lucky-attitude. So a few days ago, on our way to the vitamin store, we stopped at our first yard sale of the year and picked up this beautiful etching. A professional appraiser my sister knows gave us invaluable information on this original etching by the artist Prof. Paul Geissler and pegged its value at between $200-$500. Well, now we know how the discoverers of the Comstock Lode feel! It now adorns my newly painted red,red wine wall in the office.

Bridge Lamp -

What is a bridge lamp? It's an original cast iron bridge or floor lamp from the early 1900s near the end of the Victorian time period. It is very ornate in design with floral & leaf patternry arm, twisted pole and footed base with shells, floral patternry and other decorative pattern detail. Typically used by bridge players in the Victorian era. Add a period glass shade or tassel-fringed fabric shade it will be a stunning addition to any decor!

(post written by George)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Inspiration from Virginia City

On our Nevada road trip we stayed one night in Virginia City at The "B" Street Bed & Breakfast.

It's a completely restored Victorian house built in 1875 by Henry Piper. The owners'/hosts Chris & Carolyn are as charming as the house. We felt welcome, comfortable, and inspired. The 12' ceiling, furnishings, and details indeed transport you to the Victorian era in the Old West.

Carolyn is your generous source for history; and Chris kindly shared some experiences and tips about the renovation process with us.

A formal breakfast is served and the food is wonderful. You're in for a treat with Carolyn's award-winning baked goodies!

Partial view of the Parlor

Breakfast setting

Part of the backyard terraced garden

For more info, photos, and reservations: Visit The "B" Street B&B website here:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Painting the wall red

George painted an accent wall in his office. "Red Red Wine" is the color. Yes, just like the song from UB40.


Sharing a few random photos. Here is the man in action. Working on the tiling/grout.

This is our Sweet Italian Basil plants we bought from the urban farm plant sale last month. They are doing pretty good so far. I've used a few leaves here and there in pasta dishes and they are full of favor. Last weekend we did a bunch of yard work = pulling weeds and George put down mulch on one side

A final touch to the bathroom vanity. I love this faucet. And here I am standing in the best room in the house with my new haircut.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bathing like the Romans (except with soap)

Finally. After several weeks of thought, preparation and hardwork, our Victorian bathroom has been fully renovated. Last night, I took my first bath since the redo and started thinking about my perceptions of what a bathroom was originally designed for. From Wikipedia: "Although it was not with hygiene in mind, the first records for the use of baths date back as far as 3000 B.C. At this time water had a strong religious value, being seen as a purifying element for both body and soul, and so it was not uncommon for people to be required to cleanse themselves before entering a sacred area."

As I laid back in the tub to admire the work Andrea and I performed, I could feel myself relax more and look around and enjoy this warm, cozy bathroom that was once the worst place in the whole house. (See earlier posts)

As a first time homeowner buying a "fixer-upper", the bathroom is the most logical room to tackle first because you get to deal with all aspects of a house ie. plumbing, electrical, walls, drainage, windows, floors etc. Bathrooms are typically very small so you can work on all these things without feeling like its a huge and expensive job.

Our plans from the start included updating everything and fixing the numerous water-damaged areas around the tub, bringing out the original elements of the house and creating a Tuscan/Venetian feeling that Andrea and I both enjoy. Having been to Italy together and exploring the Roman ruins, I often thought the Romans (and Greeks for that matter) had the best perspective of what a "bathroom" should do for a person. From Wikipedia: "The earliest surviving bathtub dates back to 1700 B.C, and hails from the Palace of Knossos in Crete.[2] What is remarkable about this tub is not only the similarity with the baths of today, but also the way in which the plumbing works surrounding it differ so little from modern models. Both the Greeks and the Romans recognized the value of bathing as an important part of their lifestyles. Writers such as Homer had their heroes bathe in warm water so as to regain their strength; it is perhaps notable that the mother of Achilles bathed him in order to gain his invincibility. Palaces have been uncovered throughout Greece with areas that are dedicated to bathing, spaces with ceramic bathtubs, as well as sophisticated drainage systems. "

I certainly felt like I was regaining my strength following a warm bath in the new bathroom complete with burning candles, wine and even rose petals from our garden. As we continue to work hard on the house, we can now look forward to those occasional hot baths to help ease the muscles on our unforgiving bodies and feel like we have improved things and resuscitated parts of the bathroom that were covered for decades.

Being a technology-guy, I added this motion sensor light switch.

I am particularly pleased about how the original redwood wainscot and siding worked out. I spent weeks gently peeling off layers and layers of old paint to find wood that was pretty dry and not too bad a shape. After adding a coat of material that rebinds the wood fibers, the wood was stained and sealed.

Andrea had a picture of a a bathroom she liked and we painted the walls in the 'glaze' style, something neither of us ever did before. It's basically combining 3 different paints to create a marble look on the walls. She made great choices and the room now glows like a Tuscan field filled with sunflowers. The paint came from Home Depot (HD) at a total cost of $50.

We recycled the existing window which seemed fine and wasn't broken and secured it to a new window frame. Since we saved money on purchasing a new window, Andrea splurged on stain-glassing material that lets in light but covers the unremarkable wall and pipe you see outside.

We added two built in shelving areas. One above the new 30" cherry vanity ($135) and a shower/bath cabinet that makes use of the empty space right behind the bathtub. We kept all the original old-growth redwood siding that was actually at one time the exterior end of the house. At one point, this Victorian was only 700sqft and the rear walls were THREE of the bathroom walls. The grain on this wood is so tight I really had never seen anything like it before. If you go to any lumber place, most redwood is a few decades old. This redwood is thousands of years old and I'm happy guests will be able to see it when they walk in.

The floor and bath tile all came from HD with the exception of the hand-painted butterfly tiles we found at the Alameda flea market (see earlier post) These Italian tiles make for good trim at the top of the bath and help connect the golden walls with the stone bath tiles. I think we probably spent around $350 on all the tiling, adhesive, grout, backerboard etc. Doing the tiling ourselves is a long, messy process but it saved us tons of $$$$.

We only had to shell out $300 for a plumber to come in and move the vanity plumbing to the other side. The new toilet and vanity cost under $300 and I installed them myself. I can probably talk intelligently about the differences in types of beeswax toilet rings with anybody and I no longer giggle when I say the term "P trap".

The biggest cost saving was using the Oakland Tool Library for all our tool needs including wet saw, tile cutter, grout, drywall tools, plumbing tools, separators, heatguns and much much more. It's nice knowing that the bathroom is done and that we don't have to store new tools somewhere to gather dust. I can't recommend using the tool library enough. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and competent and the tools are all in good shape and ready to use. They have every tool you would need and they lend it out to you for free for enough days to get the jobs done.

Andrea and I are now adding some finishing touches like a wall holder for a candle, towel bar and other items. Another great resource was Urban Ore. We found this very nice, brand new medicine cabinet for $20. The only accident of this entire project was me cracking the mirror which now needs to be replaced or dealt with in a creative way. Any ideas?

We bought the shower fixtures on Ebay for around $25 and added a new tub drain and switch for a grand total of $45

Speaking of recycling. Remember the earlier post about the 1940's tile-bord that surrounded the old bathroom? Well some of them are now shelves in the new built-in towel cabinet. :)

Now its a short, short little break before the next project; resurrecting the old growth oak floors in the parlor.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The shower is finished! Here are some photos and George will do a more detailed post soon.

Decorative row
Italian hand-painted tiles

Saturday, May 8, 2010

a little pink

George is in the throes of tiling the shower and boy is he doing such a great job!! In the meantime, I got this cute metal wall sconce sort of thing and put silk flowers in it. Doesn't it just pop against the yellow wall?

We also finally found a vanity mirror that works pretty well in that space. The roses in the green pot on the sink are from our backyard.