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.


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!


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.


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!


Comments { 3 } December 9, 2003