Sunday, March 28, 2010

Door Knobs and Faucets and Fixtures--OH MY!

It feels like weeks go by and nothing happens with the Pretty Old House and then suddenly there's a whirlwind of activity.

Last week the plumbers came and installed all new plumbing in two days.
The HVAC contractors put a heat pump in the attic and ran all the ductwork.
And I met the electrician to decide on the placement for the outlets, light fixtures and switches.
It took 3 hours and I was exhausted!  Half the stuff he asked I'd never even thought about--especially the switches.  Do I want a three-way by this door or that one?  Yikes!

The doors and windows were delivered so--you guessed it--we have to pick out door knobs.
Or as they say in the "business" entry sets.
Lowe's has this one from Baldwin.
I like the handle's little hook design and the escutcheon plate.

Luckily I bought almost all the light fixtures at the Restoration Hardware Outlet in Destin back in December.
The prices were just incredible.

Here are a few things I got:

This is the Fluted Column fixture for the foyer but in nickel.  I hope it doesn't hang down too far. We measured and think it'll be okay, but you never know.

I picked a pair of Campaign Sconces for the Hall Bath. I think they fit with the period of the house
--late 1930s. 
I'd like to find a faucet for the sink with handles that have a twist.
This one from American Standard is pretty close to what I have in mind.

Last but far from Least is the lighting for the Master Bath.

I want to hang a Reese Chandelier in the middle of the bathroom.
It'll make a statement for sure since the room isn't all that big.

These single Wiltshire Sconces will flank the mirrors.

Bling, Bling.

Stay tuned,


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Night is Date Night

Friday night is date night--always has been--always will be.  We've tried to switch to Saturday night but it just doesn't work.

One of the things people say about Atlanta is that the "good" restaurants are In Town.  I agree to a point.  There are some really great places in the suburbs but there are more of them In Town.  There seems to be more small chef owned places In Town and fewer big chain restaurants. Lots of these small places are located in Pretty Old Buildings-- just adds to the ambiance.

Last night we wanted good and cheap, sudo-tex mex, so we headed out to Taqueria del Sol in Decatur.
They have wonderful fish tacos and then there's the Carnita that goes great with of all things their turnip greens--the best I've ever had.

We saw the line before we even got close.  The weather in Atlanta has turned from a dreary 50 degrees to sunny and warm with the highs in the mid 70s--so you guessed it-- EVERYBODY was out and about.

The wait looked painful so we decided to go for oyster po'boys and drove over to that restaurant only to find it had closed.  We weren't too surprised since the last time we were there the crowd was a bit thin.

By this time we were "put out" so just parked and went into the restaurant across the street. 
I've heard that Decatur has more restaurants per capita than anywhere and I believe it.

This place is called Feast. It has a few tables outside and a huge covered patio in the back in addition to a very nice dining room.  The host met us and asked if we had reservations--um, no, but could we have a table outside.
Amazingly he seated us out front.

I immediately went into pretending I was in some quaint little cafe in Europe.  The temperature was perfect the sun was setting the other patrons around us were well into their second glass of wine so there was a nice buzz of conversation.

We'd been to Feast before--with reservations and dressed a little better--so we knew what to expect.
It's great.

First off: they serve water from old wine bottles which they leave on the table and replace often--this is one of my favorite little details.  I've thought about doing that the next time we have an dinner party.

Next: We could make a meal off the appetizers and probably should.  Steve ordered the special: clams with fennel and onions-umm

My salad was the spinach with brie baked in phylo and apples with a whiskey vinegarette.

I should have stopped there, but not me.

My oven roasted shrimp with risotto was fabulous.
Steve had a small plate of trout and a greek salad--so good.

Finally: I believe sometimes you should "Just Say NO" to dessert and I did, but I might not next time.

After a couple of hours we were stuffed and totally pleased we'd found our way there.
Check out the links to Taqueria and Feast and take a look at their menus.

Your's Truly, Fat'n Happy

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Granite--The Stone Mountain Kind

Something I've learned recently: a lot of Old Houses in Atlanta have granite foundations and granite porch columns and a lot of the Old Neighborhoods have granite curbs.

Some of this granite came from Stone Mountain. The park's train ride that takes visitors around Stone Mountain passes the old quarry. I never thought about it much until I've started seeing all this granite in town.

A Google search turned up a blurb on the quarry:
Granite quarrying started at Stone Mountain in the 1830s, but became a major industry following the completion of a railroad spur to the quarry site in 1847. This line was rebuilt by the Georgia Railroad in 1869. Over the years, Stone Mountain granite was used in many buildings and structures, including the locks of the Panama Canal, the steps to the East Wing of the United States Capitol and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Unfortunately, quarrying also destroyed several spectacular geological features on Stone Mountain, such as the Devil's Crossroads, which was located on top of the mountain.

In 1887 Stone Mountain was purchased for $45,000 by the Venable Brothers of Atlanta, who would continue to quarry the mountain for 24 more years, and descendents of the Venable family would retain ownership of the mountain until it was purchased by the State of Georgia in the 1950s.

According to this information, the quarry stopped production about 1911, so only the oldest Pretty Old Houses would have Stone Mountain Granite. 

This Pretty Old House--being purchased by a couple of my clients--was built in 1910.  Could this be authentic Stone Mountain Granite?

This is one of the fireplace mantles.  We think it's a combination of brick and granite (under about a hundred coats of paint.)

Here's the house we renovated in Buckhead a couple of years ago. The foundation is massive. It was built about 1938 so probably doesn't have Stone Mountain Granite. I'm disappointed.

In addition to foundations and porch column granite was used on homes as trim.
Here are some Tudor style homes from Morningside with granite trim.

I could go on again about character in these two, but I'll save that for another time.
This one has granite trim and a colossal chimney.

Our Morningside house has a granite foundation,

and a granite chimney,

plus the mantle in the living room is granite--and thankfully hasn't been painted.

Here's a truly magnificant home built of granite--Stone Mountain Granite.

Stonehenge Mansion
The Stonehenge Mansion was built in 1914 for Samuel Hoyt Venable, a bachelor, and his sister, Elizabeth Venable Mason, her husband, Frank Tucker Mason, and their children. The architect for the mansion was Edward Bennett Dougherty. Another of Mr. Venable's Sisters, Mrs. Leilla Venable Ellis was responsible for the murals and other art work throughout the house. The mansion was built in the Domestic Gothic Style of the Tudor period from Stone Mountain granite.

Sam Venable and his brother William Venable owned and operated the Southern Granite Company which in turn owned Stone Mountain, Arabia Mountain, and Pine Mountain. Naturally, they chose granite as the primary building material for their home.

St. John's Lutheran Church bought the mansion in 1959 for some sixty thousand dollars and spent another fifty thousand dollars renovating it for its new use as a church. The sanctuary was added in 1969. Designed by architects Barker and Cunningham, they used the same Stone Mountain granite as the original structure.
(from St. John's Church website)

Talk about building your house upon a rock.

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pretty Old Houses have Character

People say they like Old Houses or In Town Neighborhoods because they have character.
What exactly is this thing called character?

 Most of us would agree that this house built about 1915 in Virginia Highland has character. It sits above the street and has an incredible front porch complete with wicker furniture and a porch swing.  The porch railing looks original. Its beefy and has nice details.  Sometimes what gives character is the little thing that's just not quite right.  See the big front door that's just a little bit off center. I think that detail makes this house look different from all the rest and so gives it character.

Character isn't always some endearing bit of quirkiness.  More often its some other unique or beautiful detail.  This house has a wonderful porch with really interesting support beams.

I don't know if these are original to the house or not and I don't think it matters.  This is a really interesting detail that I haven't noticed on other houses.  Also, the window in the gable is pretty unique.
This house has character.

This "drive by shooting" shows a house with a lot of character.
The porte-cochere is very unique.  I imagine this house has been renovated and the gable on the left added.
I took the picture for the paint colors not the Herbie-Curbie.

Snow doesn't officially give character, but it doesn't hurt.
This house is really Pretty and classic.  It has shingle siding like something in Cape Cod and the nicest double gable over the front door.  The brackets that hold up the cover are a good touch.  Also, notice the windows. They have 6 panes in the top sash and one pane below.  This is a fairly common pattern in Old Houses but not in new ones. I really admire the craftsman front door. Doors like this are sold at Home Depot and Lowe's--might be a good way to add character to an existing track home in the surburbs.

I could go on for hours about the character in Pretty Old Houses but it's time to stop.
Take care and let me hear from you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Surburban Housewives have a love/hate relationship with tile.  We know it well--up close and personal--as in on our knees with a scrub brush- personal
 and how many bottles of Tilex will it take to clean this moldy shower- personal.

But we love it.  It looks so nice and it beats the heck out of carpet.

Its time in our renovation to start picking out tile.  The choice selections and the compromising could take a while so we need to start our research.

In Atlanta when you pick out tile there are a few basic places you go.  There are really thousands of places that sell tile, but only a few places people actually buy it.  Or the people I know, that is.
Lowe's, Home Depot, and Floor and Decor

So recently I hit the road and visited these places to see what they have to offer.
I also went to Zumpano and another tile showroom off I85, but I don't remember it's name.

The mission was to find something for the existing hall bath. 
The problem was I didn't have a clear vision of what I was looking for.
I think I want the bathroom to retain some of it's vintage 1940s vibe, but ...

This is how
 the bathroom might have looked when it was new.


 In our bathroom the 1940s vanity and toilet are long gone but the original Georgia Tech yellow and black tile survives under a protective coating of plain white 4x4 field tile probably installed in the 1970s.
Thankfully the tub is there and it's white.  We want to reuse it.

This is an idea from a small bathroom from one of my favorite designers, Brooke Giannetti.
It fits the period of the house we're renovation plus its clean and simple.

But, I'd like to save the marble for the master. 
Marble in a secondary bathroom is just a little beyond what I had budgeted. 

This is another idea from "Things that Inspire".
I like the subway tile around the tub and the small mosiac tile on the floor. 
Of course I could be distracted by the awesome chandelier and the marble vanity.

This is pretty typical of what I see in homes like ours.  Do we need to follow the pack and stick to the tried and true? 
Or go for something a little different?

I think I'd like to be a little different, but still stay on the "safe" side.
Like I said before I think the subway tile surrounding the tub and the pedestal sink are nice, but the beaded board might be a little too common. 

Basket weave patterns were popular in the 1940s. And they were done in some pretty wild colors.
This is the original tile from our tiny bathroom.


Pink, green and white in a space about 3 feet square.
Makes my head spin. 
The workers finally broke up the bathroom that's being incorporated into our family room and uncovered this tile.  Wow.   The colors are more vivid than this picture shows. 
Tacky is the only word I can think of to describe it, even if it is authentic.

Here's one thing I found that might work on the floor...

It is marble, but if we just put marble on the floor and white subway tile on the walls,
we wouldn't break the bank. (Floor and Decor $14.99 a square foot) Okay, maybe I outline it in white field tile and just put the basket weave in the middle of the room.
It doesn't really need to go behind the toilet, does it?

Like I said earlier, this could take a while.  I came home empty handed but with one good idea.
That's not too bad for me.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Progress We Can See and Feel

Our house is starting to feel more like a real house and less like a war zone.
They have some outside walls up and the decking for the roof.

The upstairs windows are still covered.  I guess they haven't cut out the window openings.
Notice, we still are using the "onsite built" laddar.  It's not too scary up close.  Really.

The family room has been opened up to the kitchen.
Its huge--I love it.

Here's Steve working at his "desk" in the kitchen.

With these big rooms, we'll have to have lots of seating.
Not to worry.

Finally, upstairs I can make sense of the rooms.  They've taken down the supporting boards that ran every where and we can walk around.  This is the master bedroom.  The ceiling is a crazy 9 feet 6 inches high.
It feels good.

The contractor used Tech Shield for the roof. Here's what the LP website says:
LP® TechShield® is the original radiant barrier sheathing and the #1 selling brand. Installed in more than one million homes, it has been on the market for more than a decade. This innovative product helps block radiant heat in the roof from entering the attic, keeping the attic cooler, lowering energy costs and making the home more comfortable.

It goes on to say this product can reduce monthly air conditioning bills by up to 17%.
That'd be nice.

Its basically just roof sheathing with a special foil glued on it. The foil acts as a heat barrier. Radiant barrier material can be purchased on the internet for installation by the homeowner in existing houses. You staple it to the roof rafters and it keeps the attic cooler.

Steve's checking out the Jack and Jill bath.  See how the ceiling in here slopes down on the left.
The lavatories, tub and toilet will be on that wall. We think hope the slope will add some character.

There'll be two "kids" bedrooms upstairs. Remember this room with the "critter condo?"  I need to take a broom and clear it out otherwise somebody could hang sheetrock over it.  It happens.
We found Mrs. Winners chicken bones under our bathtub in one house we had.  No wonder we had mice.

Here's the second bedroom. It'll have some whacky angles, but I think it'll be neat.
Well, that's the tour for today everybody. 
The framers have moved on to another job and the roofers are on their way. 
Y'all come back soon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Walls Came Down and the Walls Went Up

Welcome Back.

Stuff is really happening in Morningside. The house doesn't look all that different from the street--except for the roof extension.  When its done it'll blend in and you'll hardly realize it was raised.

But when you walk around back...

This was scary.  It was like a bomb went off or maybe an earthquake.

Everything happened so fast...

But what they were doing really opened up the house.
Here's the view from the foyer.

This is the living room.

The mess was Piled High and Deep.  It would take weeks to clean it up.

More carnage...

But then the walls went up.

Ever wonder how they got all that lumber up there?
Now you know.

The Master Bedroom was starting to take shape.

The old stairwell is still there--temporarily.
That's the doorbell you see down there hanging kinda cock-eyed.

Isn't the view out the master window going to be something!

We've got to get rid of that awful tree.
It was struck by lightening a few years ago but didn't totally die.  Now it has one crazy arm limb that sticks out at an odd angle.

Most old houses have uninvited guests.  Here's just one "critter condo" we discovered.

Steve and I have really learned a lot during this process.
Framers don't do plumbing.

I hope I haven't overwelmed everybody with this post. 
Somebody complained that I was way behind, so I've tried to catch up.

Check back from time to time to see the progress.