Tag Archives: victorian

Planning the Most Important Thing, Doors

The old plan was to do the best I could to spruce up my circa 1990 Victorianesque front door this winter. I gleefully abandoned that plan when I found a door that’s close to period correct that’s almost narrow enough. Almost. I’m a small bit nervous about trimming allowances.


Obviously the door needs to be stripped. I’m thinking I’ll pick out details on the outside of the door by painting it 2 colors. Nothing too high contrast though; that can get garish. Or if it winds up too nice to paint maybe I’ll stain it instead. I love the fancy little ledges below the glass that are so common on old doors, so I might add one to mine. I’m also hoping to get nice beveled glass, but if I have to choose between beveled and laminated (the best for burglar resistance) I’ll have no choice but to go with the latter.


Now that the door is going to be authentic, I’m going with clear glass, which makes me feel much better than hemming and hawing over textures that I wasn’t that thrilled about. For privacy I’ll get a sheer curtain panel hung on 2 rods. Basic, plain, traditional, and lets most of the light through.


(Speaking of light, have I said lately how excited I am to take down the awnings?)


Then there’s the hardware, my favorite thing. I’ve said before how excited I was to get the one and only old door that came with my house back up, along with its glass knob and Art Deco back plate. I also scored another matching back plate at Philadelphia Salvage. They’re a South Philly thing apparently.


Across the room, I put in a vestibule door that a neighbor gave me, salvaged from his house. It came with hardware in a different style but I’m guessing it would be from the 1930’s like mine.


At first I thought I’d make all the hardware match downstairs, install the Deco back plates on the vestibule door, and put something else on the back side of the basement stairway door. Then I thought maybe it was better to honor the history of the vestibule door and put its original hardware back on and hold the third Art Deco back plate. But now that I have an old front door with a mortise lock I prefer a third option. First off, I’m kicking myself a little bit for splurging on Baldwin hardware that I won’t be keeping.

But anyway, I’m putting a fauxriginal knob on the outside of the front door just like I have upstairs. The door came with cast iron roses attached and I have white porcelain knobs to spare. My parents have a pristine deadbolt that I’ll install. It’s conspicuously shiny, but it’s Schlage and I’d rather not carry an antique skeleton key in my pocket. Even though that would be cool.


Inside, I’m planning to install one of my 1930’s back plates on the inside of the folk Victorian front door. That will give some vague cohesiveness to the first floor, and it’s something people actually did to their Victorian doors at the time. My new plan is to use the vestibule door pattern in the vestibule and the Deco pattern in the living room. I think that gives me the best combination of cohesiveness and letting my neighbor see his hardware when he walks into the house.


The front door is now on hold until the other exterior work is in progress. Phew. But if I have the ambition and it stays warm enough to leave the vestibule door open, I just might restore it in January. The better everything else looks, the more I notice bits of nasty like this.

4 Year Anniversary Tour – Front Bedroom

The front bedroom is the least changed room in the house. To start, it had a crazy 1-foot-deep closet and a door connecting it to the middle bedroom, which is now the bathroom.


So there was enough of the middle bedroom left over to get me a good closet, but I needed a bigger door opening than the one above. I found big fancy doors at Philadelphia Salvage that were just the right size.


I stripped them, bought reproduction pocket door hardware that was big and fancy and covered where the knobs used to be, and the Irishman hung them as bypassing sliding doors.

This is a little bit anachronistic, trying to make a 1950’s-60’s door configuration look like a Victorian one that is too grand for the house anyway. But it gave me nice doors that don’t swing out into my furniture so I say it’s fine. And plus, it means that a house in South Philly has a closet like this. Too bad I’m not into clothes and have no intention of filling it.


Now that the new closet door took one wall away, I wanted to make the old closet wall usable. But the chimney can’t just go away, so I built the whole wall in, making the room about 1 foot smaller. There’s room for a bed in the middle, but on either side the wall is framed out for cut 2 niches for built-in bookcases. One is where the closet was; the other used to be part of the room. Right now there are sections of wall with no framing behind them.

bedroom wall during

On to décor. I inherited this rather ornate Victorian bedroom set. It came from my grandmother’s aunt who got it right the third time and married a man who owned half the Wildwood boardwalk before the stock market crash of 1929. Then a good friend of the family gave me a little pan light, probably from the 1920’s or so, and a traditional Oriental style rug.


With that I have a cheap bed from IKEA, a pair of Colonial style chests, and a pair of mid mod lamps. I said with how formal the room was coming to look I wanted to make it look like a Victorian whorehouse. But then I painted the walls a sedate color. So anyways, before I show you the room now, here’s my worst progress photo. Yes, I was using the room like this.


And the after. The one below is about the same angle as the first photo in this post. When the bookcases are added, they’ll be in the wall behind the night stands.


And that fancy furniture I was talking about. The desk belongs in the back bedroom, as do the mattress and box spring behind that piece of plywood.


I’m at a bit of a stalemate with the décor in here. After Phase 2 is complete and I have permanent windows and no awnings, the cheap blinds have to go and I need something nice that blocks out the street lamp that’s like 8 feet from the window. Don’t forget where the radiators are though. The comforter is not nice (Nana bought it at Bradlee’s) and is starting to age, so it will also go. I have no attachment to the bed frame and may want a queen size bed eventually. The rug could stay but I’m not wedded to it. If you have ideas on how I can decorate around the marble topped furniture, I’m all ears. Understatement is usually my thing, but I was considering letting this room be more eccentric.

Peeling back the last layer on the front windows

I have these neat paneled alcoves under my living room windows that are original to the house – I think about 40 years older than the rest of my living room’s current incarnation.  One of them is super crooked. The paint was chipping badly, so even though they’re not going to show, I conceded that they needed to be stripped.


They came out way nicer than I thought they would. By better, I mean stain grade. Once I burned the paint off, stripping the varnish was effortless.


I’m happy with the way they look, but it creates a dilemma. I’ve already committed to painted trim throughout the house. I peeled back a lot of layers on this wall, so I think it might be good to go through them again.

Before I started there was a lot to like: Craftsman trim, deep sills, alcove radiators, and those awesome inlaid floors.

Living room, front

Living room, front

But other things were not so hot. If you look at the upper left corner of the left window, there’s a chunk missing from the crown molding. And worse, the jambs were lined with crappy plywood paneling. It turned out that this was covering damage from when the interior wall sagged. But the windows were attached to the outside brick wall that stayed level. You can see the crappiness of the paneling and the huge amounts of caulk holding in the boring radiator covers here. It’s the best shot I got of this.

Radiator cover removal

Radiator cover removal

And the best part is, the sagged jambs were holding the wall up! They were the framing! so I couldn’t fix them without sacrificing the whole wall! I still feel a little sad about sacrificing so much of the before house.


But anyways, I now have drywall jambs around these windows. I’ll recreate the “before” look with nice trim after those crappy windows meet their demise. The problem is, I still think it will look best to paint the alcoves. If they’re stained, the painted trim will look weird. Or I could paint the sides but stain the panels. And in the end, I’m probably going to put deep window sills back on and they won’t show anyway. The original sills are wrecked. The original sills were nailed to them and I did the best I could to put them back together.And though I want to recreate that part of the 1930’s remodel, in my dreams I will also reinstall the pocket shutters that were taken out at that time.


So what do you say I should do? Paint it? Stain it? Paint the sill and sides but not the panels? Do you want to smack me for being neurotic enough to even ask this question? Staining this teeny bit of trim is either doing right by 120 year old pine… or wasting my time on something that won’t be visible or fit with the rest of the house.

Charm on the back of a truck

It’s a common sight in South Philly. But usually it’s being taken out to landfill, not in. The good news is, the woodwork is great quality, the price was good, and it’s in 16 foot lengths. All the baseboards in the house should have just one seam. Except in the closets where I’ll throw together whatever is left over. The bad news is I don’t have a living room anymore.


But you remember what a good match I said the upstairs trim was? Look now! The real life version of that photo I took of the catalog and have been overusing for the past year and a half. Like I said, the new stuff is a little too fancy. But I can live with that.

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#controlissues as the Sheetrock Wraps Up

Yes, it’s getting close, but extra hard toward the end. First on Saturday I freaked out about the Irishman starting work while I was helping my dad fix his car, even though it turned out that everything he did without me was FINE. But I got down there to help/micromanage him for the second half of the day. Then today, more of me being difficult. It was finally time to confirm my second woodwork order, closing out a purchase that I started planning last April. So I should show you, the Tague Lumber place in Malvern is the fanciest lumber yard in the world. Literally.

Tague Design Showroom

The fanciest lumberyard in the world

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