April 15, 2008

Adventures in bathroom renovations, Part 1 of many...

Around this time last year we decided that the stars and planets had finally fallen into the precise alignment for us to tackle our first big house project. Being that this was our maiden voyage into home renovations - and knowing that only 1 of us came from a long line of DIYer's - we decided to start small, as in our tiny main floor bathroom.

When I first moved in this bathroom screamed late 80's/early 90's - pink blinds on the window, dusty-pink tile on the floor, oak vanity, medicine cabinet and light bar (you know what I'm talking about!), ivory-speckled tile on the bottom half of the wall and ever-so-lovely Laura Ashley-esque wallpaper on the top. I know I took photos before the demolition started but I cannot for the life of me find them anywhere, which makes me sad because, whooee, what a very pretty bathroom it was indeed! The one below will have to suffice for now (ooooh, somebody's husband isn't gonna be to happy when he see's this post!)

Our plan for this project was to bring the bathroom back to somewhat original decor, using vintage items where possible. The tub and the built-in cabinets directly behind it were about the only two remaining original items in the room so at least we didn't have to start from scratch.

Like many renovationists before us our project started off with a bang. The blinds came down and we tore at the wallpaper with relish....and then we didn't do anything.....for months. Then one day I decided to paint the walls....and then we didn't do anything again.....for months. Towards the end of last summer we finally managed to drag ourselves back into the bathroom on an occasional evening here and there, mostly just to look around and wonder what the room would look like once it was finished. And then September, and cooler weather, arrived.

Like all good Minnesotans, we started preparing for the looooonnng winter indoors. We gathered our supplies and finally got to work. But much like our beloved bathroom, dear readers, you, too, will have to wait another day for the rest of this story. I will, however, leave you with this...

(That would be me and my poor attempt at salvaging the old towel bars so I could send them to the Re-Use Center. Yeah, that didn't worked out like I'd hoped.)

April 4, 2008

To MAC or not to MAC.....

Our first renovation project (or I should say MY first reno project as I was still a single gal)came in the form of a homeowners dream. Our house is situated relatively close to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, and by relatively close I mean about a mile away from the closest runway. So even though we have the advantage of living only blocks away from a beautiful urban lake we have the disadvantage of living with constant air-traffic noise.

Seeing as our neighborhood existed long before the airport did the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) created a noise-abatement program to compensate homeowners for having to deal with all the noise pollution. I was fortunate enough to be one of those lucky homeowners (lucky in the fact that shortly after I received said compensation the program was severely cut back and many homeowners were left to deal with the noise on their own. It's still a very controversial subject around these parts and perhaps one day I'll get into more detail, but not just now).

So just what sort of compensation did I receive? Well, my particular package included all new sound-insulating windows (including the storms), new doors, air conditioning (because my home did not previously have A/C) and roofing insulation (though purely for noise). Now, for some homeowners there would be no question as to whether or not to accept this compensation. Thousands of dollars worth of improvements for free? Heck yeah! But the aesthete in me really had to mull it over. My house still had all the original windows (with original hardware) and doors. The woodwork had that certain patina that only comes with 80+ years of age. I already felt so fortunate to have found a house in as good a condition as it was, I wasn't sure I really wanted to mess around with it.

In the end, knowing that all the wood work would be replicated exactly as the original, the horrid aluminum storms would be taken away and I would have A/C during those humid Minnesota summers was enough to make me a convert. In hindsight there are still pros and cons - i.e. I got a lot of improvements for no cost on my part and I got to replace the ugly vinyl windows on the upper level; but the contractor who won the bid for the job did, in my opinion, sub-par work (seriously, I could have done a better job on some parts and that's not necessarily saying a whole lot!)and even though I had true-divided-light windows to begin with, I would have had to pay hundreds to have the same style replaced (I opted for the free version with snap-in grids). Overall, I'm happy with my decision. It really did make a world of difference as far as the noise goes. Now, if they could only do something about their flight patterns during the summer months so we could enjoy a noise-free backyard BBQ we'd be all set. But we can't have everything, can we...