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

Living Room Discoveries

Moving along with the restoration of our living room

Built-ins, Removing Paint, Restoration Diary, Woodwork,

In any restoration there are surprises, both good and bad. The good news? We discovered just how nice our built-in storage bench is. The storage bench, sometimes referred to as a gentleman caller’s bench, is a fairly unique feature in our neighborhood for a bungalow of this size. It was difficult to see the details of the hardware and woodwork because they were hidden under layers and layers of paint. Everything seemed to blend in with the white walls. We didn’t even notice the bench before we moved in because the previous owners had placed a huge projection screen television in front of it.

It never occurred to me that anyone would paint over a mirror! I felt the bench needed a tiny mirror hung on it’s back but decided to wait until we completed the restoration. Thank goodness I waited or else I would have shattered the original mirror when I hammered a nail into it.

We were amazed to find the amount of detail present on the hooks. Each hook has a tiny face on it.

The bad news? Someone drilled holes in the pocket doors and later filled them in with plaster. The only thing I can figure out is that someone put a chain through the holes and then added a padlock to keep that room secure. My neighbor told me that our house was broken into twice when the previous owner’s grandmother lived here. She added bars to the windows after the second break in.

I’m not sure of the best way to repair these holes? The plaster will need to be knocked out. Maybe the holes can be filled in with Bondo?

:: Read about the process used to strip or remove paint from our woodwork. ::

The front door. You can see where part of the door frame was been replaced with plywood. That is also probably the result of a past break in.

The windows on either side of the fireplace are now stripped.

Built-in bookcases. The doors are missing. We hope to some day have replacement doors made.

Built-in storage bench with mirror and coat hooks.

Comments { 9 } December 20, 2003

Living Room Update

My plaster walls make me want to cry

Restoration Diary, ,

Our house is really starting to resemble “The Money Pit”

Progress is being made on our living room again. Juan and his team are back after taking 2 weeks off for the holidays. David and I had planned on doing some work in there, like removing wallpaper, while Juan was away.

Ok, actually I planned and was going to tell David about it later but never got motivated. I just avoided that room and even started using the back door so I wouldn’t have to walk through the living room and feel guilty. Bad, homeowner. Bad!

Look at all those cracks around the pocket doors!

It was probably for the best. Once the wallpaper came off we discovered the plaster walls are badly damaged. It would have made for a depressing New Year.

Detailed view of the damage to the plaster walls.

Plaster walls around the gentleman caller’s bench. That piece of wood is holding the plaster in place. The plaster has separated from the lath.

I’m not sure if you can see it in this photo, but there are several long cracks running through the plaster over the fireplace.

Please, excuse me while I cry…

Comments { 5 } January 6, 2004

Living Room Plaster Walls Update

Proof that even badly damaged plaster walls can be saved

Restoration Diary, ,

Juan worked a miracle on our walls. He replastered them and we’re very happy with how they turned out. It is such a relief from the way the plaster walls looked before.

These pictures were taken yesterday while the walls were drying. The areas that look a little yellow are areas that haven’t completely dried. They did a final skim coat of plaster on the walls today. They also started on the ceiling.

Comments { 5 } January 9, 2004

Bungalow Den

Before photos

Restoration Diary,

One of my favorite features about the den is the bay window. Paint stripping has already started around the windows and the wood trim.

This room is located directly off the kitchen. I think it was originally intended as a music room. In the past this room was used as a bedroom, although it has no closet. The previous home owner used the room as an office, which is what we have been using it for. Going forward it will become our tv room/den.

Pocket doors have been stripped of paint. Looking into the living room from the den.

Doorway into the kitchen.

Very damaged wooden baseboard. Not quite sure what is happening there?

Piano window. I can imagine a piano sitting underneath this window, can’t you?

Comments { 0 } January 23, 2004

Den’s Paint Stripped

All the paint has been stripped off our Douglas fir woodwork

Removing Paint, Restoration Diary,

Juan’s team has made fast progress in the den. Most of the paint has been stripped off the woodwork. They will start removing wallpaper from the walls next. Hopefully, the walls in that room will be in better shape. Fingers crossed!

:: Learn more about how to strip paint and refinish woodwork ::

Not Lulu’s best look.

Comments { 8 } January 25, 2004

Den Disaster

Too many things wrong to mention...

Restoration Diary, , ,

Sometimes, I’d rather not know. Really, really rather not know. Really. The plaster walls are in horrific shape.


Wallpaper is the only thing holding the ceiling up. The plaster has completely disconnected from the lath. The plaster ceiling cannot be saved and will need to be replaced with drywall due to cost restrictions.

Sad plaster walls

The wall between the kitchen and den had already been replaced with drywall by the previous owner. Once the drywall came off we found that 3 of the wall studs, which support the second story, are damaged by dry rot.

Dry rot

That corner of the room sits underneath the upstairs bath. That must have been one hell of a water leak!

Dry rot

The bottom of the studs are completely eaten through by dry rot in places. It makes me wonder why the second story hasn’t started to sink into the den?


We also discovered an old termite infestation. There were no live termites but they had been there and eaten away some of our window frame and the lath.

Sad little den!

It was another bang up day in home ownership! Tequila. I need lots and lots of tequila.

Comments { 3 } January 27, 2004

The Den’s Ceiling Removed

Restoration Diary,

The plaster ceiling in our den has been torn down. We now have open access to easily update the electrical work, plus add some wall sockets. I guess there is always a silver lining?

Later today the plumber is coming to remove an old gas line that is coming out of the baseboard. It is capped but still live. The gas line was leaking when we first moved into the house so I am relieved to see it go. We are having the open walls and ceiling cavity sprayed with borate to prevent future termite infestations.

Comments { 1 } January 28, 2004

House Update

Wonder what’s been going on at our house?

Restoration Diary, ,

The walls of the den are being plastered.

So much better than before!

This wall and the ceiling will be drywalled with a skim coat of plaster over it.

Comments { 2 } February 4, 2004

Den & Dogs

Walls painted Great Barrington Green from the Benjamin Moore Historic Colors Collection

Paint, Restoration Diary, , ,


Yesterday we got a male corgi puppy. We are calling him Simon. At first Lulu, our 4.5 years old slightly spoiled female corgi, seemed to accept Simon. They even briefly played together.

Lulu and Simon

Once she realized that he was staying she changed her mind. She is showing her teeth at Simon any time he comes near what she considers her territory – which is almost everything. Of course, the cats are less than thrilled and we are getting the cold shoulder.

What does that have to do with our den? Not a whole lot except that all the above is highly distracting. The woodwork in the den has been bleached, stained and varnished. Paint is on the walls. I picked the color on my first try this time! Real progress. The color is Great Barrington Green from the Benjamin Moore Historic Colors Collection.

The walls above the picture rail and the ceiling still need to be painted.

Comments { 4 } February 11, 2004