Under 18 Layers of Paint, We Struck Douglas Fir

Restoring our beautiful Douglas Fir woodwork, built-in china cabinet, plaster walls and hardwood floors

Before and After, Removing Paint, Woodwork,

Built-in china cabinet before and after with Lulu.

The dining room was the first room completed in our house. This was before we started writing about our “adventures” in home restoration on the web. So, you don’t get to read all the gory details about how we almost killed each other selecting a paint color for the walls or how I caught the wainscoting on fire.

Dining room before restoration and after.

The woodwork was covered in about 18 layers of paint. We got to relive each decade as we stripped the paint away. There was a groovy 1970′s phase with purple woodwork and hot pink walls.

In the before photo, I had started to strip the paint from the wainscoting. You can see just how dark the original mission finish was.

I had originally intended to paint the dining room a deep burnt red color. We went through 9 different shades of red trying to find the “right” one. After the first 2 paint jobs, David “loved” everything no matter how awful it looked.

Before and After

In the end we settled on this warm golden color, Shelburne Buff from Benjamin Moore’s Historical Collection. Several people have tried this color after seeing our walls and been dissatisfied because the color wasn’t gold enough.

Dining Room After

When a wall is painted a dark color like red, it will need to be primed before a new color is applied or else the dark color will bleed through. Lots of people out there probably already know this, we didn’t. The red undercoat has altered our color. Our walls are not a true Shelburne Buff. But, we are very happy with the color…whatever it is.

Dining room After. The light is from Restoration Hardware. We have since purchased an antique fixture off of eBay but have not installed it yet.

After. Our box beam ceilings and Lulu just because she is a ham.

More about the resources used in our dining room here.

Comments { 23 } October 21, 2003

Dining Room Resources


:: Paint ::
Ceiling Color: Devine Maple from the Natural Blondes palette
website: www.devinecolor.com

Wall Color: HC-28 Shelburne Buff (sort-of)
BENJAMIN MOORE Historical Collection
website: www.benjaminmoore.com

After recommending this lovely color to several people we consistently heard back that the color didn’t look as yellow on their walls. We thought maybe it was because the walls were first painted a red color (a huge mistake) and the red tone was bleeding through. After further investigation, we realized that our paint color is actually a variation of Shelburne Buff – a mistake when our color was originally mixed! A happy accident because we love the color.

:: Stain ::
Read all about the paint stripping and staining process, the stain color and stain recipes here.

:: Switchplate Cover ::
2550 N.W. Nicolai Street
Portland, OR 97210
Sales & Service: 888.401.1900
Retail Store: 1100 S.E. Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97214 (503.238.1900)
website: www.rejuvenation.com

Switchplate Burnished Antique Brass Finish

:: Register Cover ::
PMB 343, 2525 E. 29th, Suite 10B
Spokane, WA 99223
telephone: 509-535-5098
fax: 509-534-8916
website: www.crafthome.com

Register Cover: Metal Registers Style 1, Antique Brass Finish
They now offer nice Mission and Rickenbacker style register covers that weren’t available when we purchased our register covers. Although, I would still probably select Style 1 since it most closely matches the original wall register cover found in the house.

:: Chopin Chandelier ::
website: www.restorationhardware.com

Chopin Chandelier – Restoration Hardware has a Lighting Sale once or twice a year. That is when we purchased ours. I have seen it listed under $400 before. This chandelier is only temporary until we find an antique light.

:: See dining room before & after photos ::

Comments { 2 } October 26, 2003

Halloween Horror

Nothing to give you a fright like a thunderstorm when your roof is being replaced

Restoration Diary,

Back porch ceiling doing its best Niagara Falls impersonation.

When Heather and I left tonight to go visit some friends, the first drizzle had appeared – signaling in the fall season in southern California. We were a little worried since our new roof is not yet complete, so we put a tarp over some of the boxes we had in the upstairs sun room which was exposed to the outside since the siding had been removed. We then headed out expecting a nice evening with friends. { Heather: Stupid or just optimistic? }

In the middle of dinner, after I had consumed my first martini and was well into my first beer, the rain started to really come down pounding on the streets and the rooftops. Heather started to get really worried because she was afraid our ceilings would get ruined. I shrugged the whole thing off thinking that there wasn’t anything we could do. After a couple minutes of debating the situation, Heather decided that she wanted to leave to check the house. I decided that I would go with her. So we cut our evening short and left.

Rain poured down from the sky on our drive home and the windshield wipers had difficulty in keeping a clear view of the road. The roads themselves were slick and the divider lines blended into the asphalt under sheets of water.

When we arrived home we quickly checked each room. The living room was ok. Our renovated dining room was ok (what a relief). Then I heard Heather yell, “We’ve got a huge problem!

See that blue bucket on the top shelf just filling up with water?

I went into the kitchen and to my horror saw water dripping from different parts of the ceiling. Heather opened up the cabinets and brown water was dripping all over our clean dishes and glasses.

No, the horror isn’t how ugly our back porch is…it is that waterfall gushing down the wall!

We moved to the back porch and discovered a small waterfall flowing from the ceiling on the back porch and in the bathroom. We went upstairs and found water dripping in the upstairs bathroom and in the second bedroom as well.

We had a small disaster on our hands.

We scrambled around the house for buckets and I climbed up into the attic to see if I could contain the water up there. When I was in the attic I found water dripping from the roof, but not in huge quantities. Heather handed me paint trays and I put them under the leaks in the roof.

Crawlspace above the kitchen and back porch. Look at all that water! And that is knob and tube wiring!! Egads!!!

Heather told me the problem was actually in the crawlspace that was above the kitchen and back porch. As I was investigating the problem, Heather yelled “The ceiling is coming down in the kitchen! Get a bucket quick!” I ran downstairs with a bucket to find that the dripping was turning into a steady stream of brown water pissing from the ceiling.

Kitchen ceiling. The only thing still holding it up is the wallpaper.

At that point I decided I needed to get onto the roof and cover the unfinished roof with plastic. Heather called our contractor.

Heather wanted to get into the crawlspace with buckets to contain the water. I wanted to go out the second story window onto the unfinished part of the roof. I quickly moved boxes out from the crawl space and we put buckets in there to catch the water. Then I dismantled the window and tried to put a big piece of plastic on the roof. I was going to nail the plastic down but Heather didn’t want me out on the roof since it was raining.

Bathroom on the back porch flooded with water.

After some time our contractor and his father showed up to assess the situation. They then proceeded out the window and onto the roof with a big piece of plastic. They nailed the plastic down and told us they would be back tomorrow to finish the roof installation. They were very kind. They had even called earlier when we were out to tell us it was raining.

So now we have a HUGE mess. The ceilings need to be replaced in two rooms. They had to be replaced anyway, but now the need is more urgent. All our dishes need to be washed and the cabinets need to be cleaned and dried out.

Fun. { Heather: Not so much… }

Comments { 3 } November 1, 2003

Aw, LA is so Beautiful After the Rain

One of the reasons why I love LA...

Nothing Important

The Hollywood sign photographed from Runyon Canyon.

Comments { 0 } November 3, 2003

Not Under My Roof

And Why Flashing is a Good Thing

Restoration Diary,

Our house the first week of home ownership, Sept 2002. The roof appears to be the only thing that doesn’t need repaired.

We learned that the reason water pours down our walls every time it rains is because the flashing on our roof was installed on top of the roof shingles instead underneath them, and in some areas flashing wasn’t installed at all. Flashing is a metal that is installed where the dormer meets the roof and over other joints; as well as around the chimney, roof vents, and valleys in your roof. Flashing prevents water from seeping in and gushing down your plaster walls. Very, very important!

The new roof that was recently installed before we bought our house, the one that was supposed to last up to 25 years, had to be completely torn off. The installation was shoddy, and that is being polite. The previous home owners must have been aware of the problem. It doesn’t rain all that often in Southern California but it does rain occasionally. There is no way to miss a waterfall gushing down your walls!

We had purchased a 1 year home warranty policy to cover things like roof, plumbing problems or appliances breaking. The insurance company refused to honor the policy because they stated the roof was improperly installed in the first place. Our policy is essentially worthless, just like our roof. An interesting article on home warranty policies.

House, Oct 2003. An improvement but we still have so much left to do!

A brand new roof with flashing has been installed. We had to replace the cedar shingles on the dormers because they were rotten from water damage. Over the past year we have torn out the old cement steps and installed wood ones. The brick columns on the porch have been rebuilt. I removed the asbestos shingles from the porch and found the original wood railing still intact.


We had the roofing removed from over the pergola. It is so nice and open now! It will be beautiful covered in vines or climbing roses.

Comments { 3 } November 15, 2003

Racial Covenant

Banning people of from living in the neighborhood because of the color of their skin

Restoration Diary,

“Whereas, we the undersigned, are the owners of the following described lots and parcels of lands in the Charles Victor Hall Tract of land, as per Map Book 26 at page 65 of Miscellaneous Records of Los Angeles County, California, and whereas, we the undersigned, are desirous of prohibiting the use, or occupancy and possession of the lots and parcels of lands of the said Chas. Victor Hall Tract as aforesaid, by any person or persons other than of Caucasian or white race.
- August 22, 1924”

520 signatures were signed in agreement. J. L. Welsh, the man who built our home, was one of 20 who personally appeared before the notary public as the document was signed and notarized. The Declarations of Restrictions was to be in effect until January 1, 2023.

In its heyday, between 1900 and around 1920, West Adams was a center of fine living for Los Angeles and became a district of architect-designed mansions and charming bungalows. Residents included an oil magnate, a millionaire wine maker, and socialites as well as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen who filled in the smaller streets. Architects Charles and Henry Greene, Frank M. Tyler, and Alfred and Arthur Heineman built homes for clients living in West Adams. In 1948 racial covenants were outlawed and by the 1960′s West Adams was primarily made up of people who were “other than of Caucasian or white race.”

The idea that my husband who is Asian American could not have owned our home is very troubling to me. David is less bothered by the racial covenant. I asked him why and he said because it was a different time.

Comments { 1 } December 2, 2003

The Electrician Came

Restoration Diary

Gibbs Brothers Electric was here yesterday. Our hall light stopped working and the electricity to our bedroom kept shutting itself off. We discovered that half the electrical wiring in the house has been updated and the other half is running off of the 1912 knob and tube wiring.

The electrician got everything back up and running but he suggested replacing some of the original wiring because the insulation has worn away in places making it a fire hazard. We plan on doing this but I’m not sure if I will go with Gibbs Brothers. After discussing the work, it became apparent that the electrician was more comfortable opening up the plaster walls (which we want to avoid) than fishing wire through them.

The push-button hallway switch will need to be replaced because it’s not up to code. This is probably a good idea since we have had a few sparks from that light switch. We will replace it with a 3-way push-button switch (7837) from Rejuventation. I selected a hanging lantern based on a 1905 design from The Bright Spot, Inc. to replace the bare bulb dangling from the ceiling (which is also not up to code). I thought the price was very reasonable. I also purchased a light for our front porch while I was at it.

Comments { 2 } December 3, 2003

Furnace Problems

Restoration Diary,

Tom Hanks in “The Money Pit”

Oh, if it’s not one thing it’s another. My brother, John, jokingly calls our house The Money Pit and sometimes I think he may be right. We have been having problems with our furnace. Sometimes it works perfectly yet other times it will take up to 5 hours to start heating. Last night David said it was blowing out cold air.

This morning a service representative from Continental Refrigeration/Heating & Air, Inc. came out to inspect our furnace. He found that the intake and out-take exhaust pipes were improperly installed and sloping the wrong way causing condensation and water to get trapped in the pipes. He also recommended doing a complete reinstallation of all the duct work using our existing furnace. This would cost almost as much as the furnace itself. We have decided to have the pipes reinstalled but will wait to redo all the duct work next year.

Two months after we purchased the house my Dad came out and we (mostly he) installed central heating since our house had no heat and we didn’t have 10K for a furnace. He purchased the equipment in Indiana at a fraction of the cost it was being sold for in Los Angeles. I think he did a good job considering that he’s never installed a furnace before. It certainly got us through the winter last year but we want things to be right and so we will address these problems with the installation. In the mean time, since we have no heat, David is going to pick up a space heater. It gets cold at night in California!

Comments { 0 } December 4, 2003

Staying Married Through the Restoration

Our secrets for not killing each other during the stress of a major remodel

Restoration Diary, ,

Sometimes people ask, “How do you do it? How do you stay married while living in the house during the restoration?”

Well, sometimes we do it better than others. I’ve read interviews featuring other couples who have traveled down this road and when they say how they had no problems and this experience has brought them closer together in their marriage, I think who are they kidding?

Living without a fully functional kitchen for over a year like we have tends to make meal times difficult and we end up eating out more than we should.

The worst thing we face is what we term the “bathroom situation”. We have no shower. The upstairs main bath has been stripped down except for a bath tub. I feel sorry for David when I see him rinsing his hair by pouring water over his head from a cup. We have a working toilet and sink in a closet-sized half bath downstairs on the back porch, not very convenient in the middle of the night.

Plus, just the problems of an older house – bad electric, bad roof, furnace problems, mix in two busy careers equals one frazzled couple.

I will admit living with the state of our kitchen and bath has gotten easier as time goes on, a year and 3 months to be exact. It was a huge adjustment at first but now it seems almost normal. We don’t even notice it any more except on the rare occasions we get away and realize how much quicker and easier it is to take a shower, brush your teeth and style your hair all in the same room. You don’t realize how complicated a simple act like getting ready to go out for an evening really is when your bathroom is torn apart because it begins to seem normal.

We have no experience with restoration and are figuring things out as time and money allow. This leads to conflicts because, in truth, neither of us really knows what we are doing. Our approaches to projects are usually polar opposites and as different as our upbringings.

David’s father, who researched and developed different medical drugs in a lab, has more than a healthy respect for germs, almost verging on a germ phobia. I grew up on a farm, a germ’s paradise. We didn’t bother with shoes in the summer, spent lots of time climbing through years of dirt (or worse) in old barn rafters and hay lofts, playing with lots of different animals, hopefully taking a dip in the swimming pool to clean up, and if I was lucky remembering to wash my hands before eating. When you grow up on a farm you are going to get dirty. I don’t remember safety or germs being a big focus or even a focus in my house.

For Christmas David received a first aid kit from his father. My dad gave me a pry bar, a built-in saw wrench and bottle opener (I guess that comes in handy when the state of your house drives you to drink) and a rechargeable saw, drill and flashlight kit. We’ve used both the first aid kit and the tools, not necessarily in that order.

David: Wait, what are you doing with that sledgehammer?

Heather: I’m going to whack out the cement covering the front porch.

D: Wait. You don’t know what’s under there.

H: Yes, I do. I crawled under the front porch and I think the original wood floor is still intact.

D: You crawled under the front porch?

H: Yeah. I just took off some of those asbestos shingles and crawled under there.

D: Asbestos! Did you wear your respirator?

H: It’s fine.

D: It’s not fine. Wait, I think we need to make a plan.

H: I have a plan. I’m going to whack the cement floor with a sledgehammer, spray water from the garden hose on high power in the cracks to loosen up the cement and then pry up the cement with a crowbar.

D: A garden hose! What?

H: (Frustrated sigh…and a rolling of the eyes for good measure) It’s fine.

D: Put on some safety glasses! Wait, YOU ARE NOT EVEN WEARING SHOES!

These are the days of our lives…The only real piece of advice I can offer is this (the secret of our so-called success):

1) Put one person in charge of a project and let them do it in their own way without offering “help” or suggestions.

2) When you need the other person’s help with a project, let them approach it in their own way.

An example of this, again, has to do with our front porch floor. After days of backbreaking work removing cement that was 4 inches thick, rusty old chicken wire, nails, staples, and each of us getting tentus shots, we discovered linoleum glued to the top of the original wood floor. I can’t explain how upsetting this discovery was after all the work we’d done to get down to the original porch floor.

David was in charge of removing the linoleum. He tried pry bars, scrapers, heating the linoleum with the Silent Paint Remover and none of these options worked very well. After the 3rd night of working on this until 2 in the morning, I suggested that maybe we should just replace the wood floor or put down a sea grass rug but was met with, “Are you kidding! After all this I’m getting that damn linoleum up.” Man verses the linoleum. Man losing. Man finally allows his wife to help him.

D: What are you doing with that steak knife?

H: The blade is thin enough that I can get it underneath the linoleum to pry it up.

D: How did you even think of that? What leads you to think, “Gee, I think a steak knife will do the trick?”

H: It’s working!

D: We use that to eat with. I don’t want you to use it on the floor!

H: We’re not eating with it now…I just broke the blade. I’m going to go get another knife. I never really liked these knives anyway.

D: Okay, you’ve just broken the blades of 3 steak knives. How are we supposed to eat?

H: It’s fine! My technique is working. Do you want this linoleum up or not?

D: Some technique…grumble, grumble

H: What did you just say? You’re just upset that my way is working.

3) Praise all the work your partner does even if you are less than thrilled with the outcome.

Comments { 4 } December 6, 2003

Living Room Restoration

Admitting we need help and hiring a contractor

Restoration Diary,

Living room restoration in progress. Lulu cannot resist a chance to pose.

Last year as I sat amongst all of our belongings still packed in boxes stacked upon boxes and thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could set up the tree next year?”

We still have lots more work ahead of us stripping this fireplace! We started this project last fall.

Well, next year has arrived with the den no closer to being ready. Sure, some of the boxes have been unpacked or moved out to the garage for the time being, but our house still isn’t Christmas tree worthy. But this time next year things will be different. We’ll be decorating our tree in a room that’s restored because I’ve decided that we need some additional help if we are going to complete our house any time in the next 10 years.

Fairly large hole on the side of our fireplace.

I have seen some amazing restoration work done in the West Adams area and the work I like was all done by the same craftsman. He is very busy and we have been on his waiting list since last summer. Juan and his team began work yesterday. They are starting in the living room and moving on to the den. Progress!

Two of the window frames have holes in them. God, I hope they weren’t from bullets.

Our realtor called the built-in seat a gentleman caller’s bench. That sounds so romantic. Although, only one gentleman caller at a time at our house!

If you find yourself in a similar situation and are looking for a contractor here is Juan’s contact info:

J & C Home Repair
Juan Reyes

Believe me, we wouldn’t post his contact information if we weren’t extremely happy with the quality of his work. He does plastering, wood restoration, carpentry and painting.

The best surprise so far has been these gorgeous Victorian coat hooks. They were covered with so many layers of paint that we had no idea they had faces on them or any type of detail.

Look at that little face!

The vent cover is missing.

Pocket door handle looks so much better when it isn’t covered under gobs of paint.

The wall is severely cracked around the pocket doors. This must have happened when the house was elevated to replace the foundation.

The walls in the living room were originally a cinnamon color.

I love how the living room window is so large. It is nice to see some wood tones instead of white paint everywhere.

Comments { 3 } December 9, 2003