July 3, 2016
I recently went to Nantucket to get a little inspiration and a mental break from the busy real estate season. Nantucket if you don’t know is an island off of Cape Cod that has beautiful and has tons of historic homes as the island was a Whaling hub in the early 19th Century. They have a pretty cool Whaling museum that is worth checking out if you have time… but Whaling was not my main focus. I needed interior design inspiration! I love nautical life in general and in that I have a beach house I wanted to get some ideas to evoke the spirit of the ocean without star fish and seashell curtains (seriously people, stop with the starfish).
I started out walking the main downtown section which is adorably cute and then wandered down some side streets which bring you back to 1600-1800s architecture and design as many of the houses have not changed and have just been updated when needed. Real estate is insanely expensive on Nantucket but when you walk through the streets you can see why, it’s really a special place. One thing about beach houses that I’ve always loved is that people in New England name their houses. It’s all over the town that I grew up in (Scituate) and in Hull as well, so as I walked through the streets I took note of lovely front doors and house names.
But why? I have always wondered – why do people name their houses? Naturally it seems like an affectionate way to treat your house by giving it an alter ego, I mean people name their cars right? But aside from that, is there really a point?
After a little research I found that people have been naming their houses for hundreds of years. George Washington had “Mount Vernon,” Michael Jackson had “Neverland Ranch,” and The royal family has “Buckingham Palace.” But really it all started with rich people (shocking) who named their houses Manors, and Halls and then started to come up with other more creative ways to signify their property. Prior to street numbers, house names were a way for people to find a property they were looking for. In the mid 1700s Parliament in England decided all houses had to have numbers (makes sense right?) because how else can you find a house without a name or a number? Looking at every house name could get old and imagine how long it would take the delivery guy to bring my pizza when I’m drunk?! Gotta have that visible house number!!
So here is a sampling of the cute house names I saw on Nantucket:
The Captain's house
July 3, 2016
As you may know I am in the process of remodeling my dream house which is an old Victorian on the Ocean. It has turned out to be quite the project which is taking a long time to complete because I have a full time job, and no machine to counterfeit money in my basement. We took a break from finishing the front porch because our backyard was really steep and we wanted to level it out. A friend of mine from High School owns an excavation company out of Scituate, MA and came over and gave us a really reasonable quote to get the job done. Aside from leveling out the backyard we have had an ongoing battle with Japanese knot weed which is pretty much the devil and is an invasive plant species that took over the back yard.
This is what it looks like in summer
My dad and steve trying to clear it out after Winter
After a serious battle against this invasive plant that was taking up 1/3 of our yard, it continued to come back – no matter what we did (we didn’t do Round up Or Chemicals because I don’t want them in my yard, google about it and decide for yourself but I am ALL SET with glyphosate death serum).
Since we were planning to excavate to level out the yard we asked our excavator to go down an extra 2 feet in order to get most of the root system of this bamboo out. This plant is INSANE, literally if you leave just a tiny section of root in the ground, and entire plant will grow back, it’s actually growing through our asphalt driveway.
When our excavator came he got to work taking all of the dirt that was contaminated with Japanese Knotweed and trucking that out of our yard, and then taking the steepest section of our yard that we wanted to level out and using that dirt to fill in the hole where the dirt had been removed. Then he leveled everything out – which took a few days to get properly angled.
Taking out the hill
Before, hard to tell how steep it was
Leveled out backyard
LUCY love climbing on the mud wall
We ended up taking out about 4 feet of dirt from the steepest part of the yard in order to level it off. When you take out that much dirt naturally you have to put some sort of retaining wall in to hold the dirt from collapsing in on itself and shifting from the neighbors property. I looked at all kinds of possible retaining walls, there are so many beautiful ones to choose from, but obviously everything I really loved was WAY over budget. Fu*king budgets, always raining on my parade!!
Luckily our excavator who is great at this type of stuff, had an excess of boulders he had been collecting from other jobs. We were able to buy boulders by the truckload from him and do what is called a “dry stack wall.” Meaning, the rocks are places strategically to make a wall but there is no mortar or anything holding them together. Over time the dirt and grass seeps into the cracks and creates sort of a joint to hold the rocks back, hence the “dry stack.” The cool thing about this type of wall aside from the fact that it is more affordable that other masonry walls it that it reuses boulders that have not been altered which is a “green” alternative to quarried rock, and it provides a natural look. When you’re walking in the woods and see rock walls rom 100 years ago, those are dry stack walls, which have managed to remain pretty well enact.
Watching them build the wall was pretty cool as they had a strategic plan in place and picked each rock to fit into the correct space. I have to admit, when they first started I was like “Oh no, this is going to look like shit.” I really didn’t have a lot of faith that my “retaining wall on a budget” was going to look like the beautiful walls I had been stalking on pinterest, but luckily I was wrong and it came out awesome.
Tons of Boulders – delivered by the truckload.
Organized placing of each rock took some time. I walked around drinking wine and silently judging the placement of each and every rock.
Came home from work and it came out better than I thought! More to come on the back yard soon!
June 12, 2016
I’ve always wanted to go to the Brimfield Antique Show and this year I finally made it. I packed up the whole gang, my mom, a cooler of sandwiches and snacks and hit the road! I wasn’t really sure what to expect so I threw a couple hundos in my pocket and was hoping for something cool I could buy.
Side note, it took a while to get there – the actual ride was fine, but once you pull into Brimfield you sit in one lane of traffic for an hour plus, which was the real torture. We all ended up peeing on the side of the road, except my mom who refused (no shame in my game) because we couldn’t lose our place in line!! So if you ever go, there is a small back road that runs sort of parallel to route 20 which is the main road. TAKE THE BACK ROAD and save yourself a ton of time, I google mapped an alternate route on the way out and saved us from the return torture. There are still 2 more dates this summer for the Antique Fair : July 12-17 • Sept 6-11, so Check it out!
There was some really good junk and some not so good junk, and there were A TON of people. Having two kids in tow was both fun and exhausting because A. it’s not the place to loose a kid, there are so many people and it’s a FAIR, who wants to lose their kid at a fair?!!! So I spent most of the day making sure Lucy (5) didn’t wander more than 3 feet from my side. B. There is SO MUCH STUFF, I think you would have to spend a week there just to see it all, I mean there is A LOT OF STUFF. And naturally all the things I wanted were over budget. I snapped a few pics of cool items.
* Insider tip: HAND SANITIZER, Bring it, use it, love it. The place is one giant dirt pile of fun and porta potties.
Gallery, you can click on to enlarge:
June 12, 2016
If you’re up to date with the remodel you’ll know I came home from work one day to my house looking like this;
Bye bye porch
Well my casual little porch remodel has turned out to be, well, NOT SO CASUAL. But that’s why I live with a contractor so moving along…
I’m pretty adamant that we keep with a similar style as I like to maintain architectural detail when working on older homes. I just kind of feel like so many houses look EXACTLY the same, why not maintain the unique differences that set a house apart from the rest?!
So after ripping off the whole porch and putting in temporary (VERY TEMPORARY) supports we had to jack up the house, literally JACK UP THE HOUSE, with a little thing called a …wait for it… HOUSE JACK. Legit, these things exist. So basically you put a huge 2×4 on this jack and lift up the house and then put a beam into place to hold up the house again. I’m giving the abridged version because pictures tell a better story but if you ever want a detailed explanation, I can give it to you – if you bring me a bottle of wine.
First Major beam went in at night... STRANGER DANGER
Side view before Beam 1
Staging and Framing for Beam 2, Also Steve's Ass...haaaay haayyy
Beam 3 and 4 And roof Framing Begins!
Roof Framed in Just in time for the Holidays! PEACE!!!
Well deserved Beers on top of Porch - Soon to be Second Level Porch from Master!
So At this point we are fully Framed in!! Winter came right after the second floor roof went on, we quickly put a rubber roof on top just to get it sealed up and then had to hold off until the warmer weather. The plan is to put a second floor Deck on top of the Main floor Porch so the master bedroom will have sliders that go onto the higher up porch with some killer views. At this point we are still framed in and don’t have decking down yet but coming soon!
The most important part of this project really is a two part issue that was repaired. First, the porch was separating from the house, and was eventually just going to fall off. Second, the second floor living area was cantilevered over the porch which was not properly supporting the living space, so all of the second floor flooring had buckled and warped and was obviously sagging. Once we jacked up the first floor porch and put new beams in, the second floor interior floors became more level – YAY! They aren’t exactly perfect yet, but when we put new flooring down inside we will be able to make the level now that the second floor is not sagging.
Once the main framing was done we poured a concrete slab underneath to provide us with a dry working space where we will stain the floor boards for the porch (the decking that you stand on).
So fresh and so clean! Much better than dirt to work on!
This project is on a slight hold while we took on another one, so stay tuned!!
July 8, 2015
About 2 years ago a purchased my first house in Squantum, MA. (North Quincy really). I was, and still am totally obsessed with the location. I bought a little bungalow for myself and figured I’d fix it up as I went. Apparently, fixing a house on your own isn’t easy, at all! I did have some help from friends, family, and concerned passerby (Thank you random shirtless man for making sure I didn’t fall of my ladder and die while cleaning my gutters in the pouring rain, I owe you one sir).
What was a major love/hate relationship with fixing stuff, turned out to be an amazing learning experience. In two years I feel like I have learned years’ worth of useful knowledge and am a regular fixture at Home Depot and Curry Ace Hardware (special thanks to the late night Home Depot crew who dealt with me while I was drunk and ran out of whatever material at 10pm). I now can walk into any house and have a much more in-depth understanding of what it takes to make a home exactly how you want it to be. Trust me, it’s not at all like HGTV, AT ALL, it’s a million times harder, and messier.
Below are some photos of my finished product. I got an AWESOME tenant (I love her) and have now bought and even BIGGER piece of Junk house that I can document the progress of on this blog (although, I pretty much always forget to update this thing). Before I share the “After” photos, I wanted to give a few tips to my fellow “Do it yourself-ers” who are just getting started or considering remodeling a house or condo on their own.
1. However long you think it’s going to take…Triple it.
Seriously, things take a lot longer than you’d like. For example. I decided to put a front porch on my house to make it look less like a trailer. Just a small little porch for friends. Well a porch requires permits, and inspections, and an actual contractor who is AVAILABLE to build your porch (everyone is busy right now who is in the trades so get ready to wait). Aside from buying all the materials which may or may not be in stock and need to be ordered (yes you have to SPECIAL ORDER even the most obvious things), you have to handle all these other unforeseen things. Let’s say you have a hose on your house, hoses are nice to water plants and whatnot, but if you want to build a porch on your house, well you have to move the hose, and in order to do that you need a plumber, and well plumbers are busy! See where I’m going with this?? IT TAKES TIME!! Sit back, get a cocktail and get ready to wait. Building a porch doesn’t take a week, it takes a month or more, and there you have it.
2. However much you think it will cost….Double it.
So I wanted a new front door, pretty normal right? I went to Home Depot, they have nice doors for $175.00…SCORE! Well no; are you going to install a front door yourself? …SURE!! I CAN DO ANYTHING – I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! No, actually you can’t, I’m smart and I couldn’t either, so don’t feel bad about yourself. Call a contractor or your favorite uncle who lets you pay him in beer (this takes 3 times as long fyi and is usually crooked). And then you have to pay people, even if it’s in beer, it still costs money. New front door? $600.00, easy.
3. Get the right tools to do stuff, it makes it a billion times easier.
You want to paint? Sure! You should, you can save a lot of money painting yourself! But get the right tools, like a Roller extension (easy little thing that you put on your roller for high walls so you don’t have to climb up and down a frigging ladder all day, saves you hours and back pain). Get a small set of your standard tools, screw drivers, pliers, MEASURING TAPE, hammer, etc. and keep them handy. Tightening up a toilet, or changing out hardware on cabinets is easy peasy – IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS. (Ikea screw box and tools DO NOT COUNT).
4. Don’t be cheap.
If you buy the cheap stuff, it breaks, and also sucks. Don’t waste your time and money, just get the real thing the first time and get to work.
5. Nobody’s going to help you so don’t get all teary when they don’t.
Your cousin, Uncle, Friend from band camp, all said they would “totally come over on a Saturday and help you remodel your entire house!!!” … NO, they won’t. Literally, it seems glamorous, but after about 2 hours of painting Peach Pagoda on your bathroom walls you can pretty much guarantee yourself they never call you again.
6. Think about something for a long time before you do it, and do it in the CORRECT ORDER!
I can’t stress this enough. Before you decide to do a project, get an understanding of what it entails so you don’t have to do it all over again because you didn’t realize it corresponded with something else you were going to do. For example, you decide to re-finish your floors, but then want to take a wall down? Well what do you think goes where the wall once was? FLOORING, and if you want it to match you should probably do them all at the same time, know what I mean? And really think about the whole picture before you do something, you may end up moving stuff around and all your hard work and more importantly all your MONEY gets wasted.
7. Don’t over improve.
I mean this in the most sincere way. Some people have a moderate house and they think they are building the friggin Taj Mahal. Know your neighborhood, know who your end buyer is going to be and don’t over spend. If you are in a moderate area, don’t do a $70,000.00 kitchen and expect to make that $70,000.00 back. You don’t necessarily make back what you put into a house and you need to keep that in mind. And not everyone has the same taste as you. You may love bead board and starfish…guess what, NOT EVERYONE ELSE DOES. Keep that in mind.
The most important thing is to take your time and not waste money!
Here are some of my before/ after pictures. A lot of the updates don’t really show up in the photos but trust me, this place is like night and day!! Moving onto another project!! Stay tuned for updates!
after with porch!
Kitchen after! Took down 1/2 wall, granite, new sink, crown molding etc.
granite, new sink, lighting
These were my floors
yay new floors, also - recessed lighting!
bedroom and broken closet
This closet rocks! Took down the whole wall and rebuilt
made this a dining room
Laundry room nightmare, I wish I had a before photo! Turned out ok!
May 20, 2013
For as long as I can remember I wanted to own my own house. I’m not into drugs, but I might as well be, because I look at real estate like a crack smoking , street walker…Can’t get enough…MORE, MORE, MORE, NOW! So when the day came that I closed on my first house, I was so excited I sweat through my brand new Calvin Klein dress bought specifically for the occasion, pounded 6 cups of coffee (not an exaggeration), go lost 3 times going to the registry of deeds I had been to multiple times before, and puked in my mouth a little. Needless to say it was one of the best days of my life. Seriously, AMAZING. I had worked so hard for that day and it was finally here. I signed the papers, grabbed the keys and ran to my new house.
Having worked in real estate for a while I knew the “buy the worst house in the best neighborhood” lecture pretty well , because I gave it to my clients on a weekly basis. Taking my own advice, I negotiated the price down on the cheapest house in my DREAM neighborhood to what was a ridiculously good deal so I was pretty confident in my decision even though I knew there were things I had to fix.
It’s funny how when you’re shopping around at houses you see all the good things, but the day it becomes yours you suddenly realize all the flaws (kind of like boyfriends, really perfect, until they’re yours, every day). So when I walked up to the front of my new fab-pad, and the front door literally broke off, I thought it was probably just a lucky sign of how smart I was in purchasing this house.
It seemed odd when I walked into the front porch that everything looked more crooked than I remembered it at the walk through. Closet doors seemed off their hinges, shelves were slightly off, and what I thought were “beautiful hardwood floors” were floors that hadn’t been refinished since the year I was conceived.
I didn’t have time for “buyers remorse” and besides, this is what I do, so no regrets here. But I had to evaluate how I hadn’t noticed cracks in the ceiling and separated beams just the morning before. Was I losing my mind? Perhaps… but seriously? And then it occurred to me, the first earthquake in 100 years had just happened in Massachusetts two days prior! And suddenly it occurred to me that my 1903 salt box, bungalow had seen better days.
Let the project-ing begin! Stay tuned, but for now, enjoy (and by “enjoy” I mean “cringe at”) some “before” pictures:
My nasty bathroom... oh dear.
Kitchen, kind of yuck, but i've seen worth.
I hate laundry, this room isn't helping with that.
Pristine hardwood floors!
Don't even get me started!
Right after the 100 year earth quake. My closet totally busted...AWESOME!