Hi No. 38 fans,

At long last, I present to you the return of the dining room pillars. To start my story, here is a before and after view:


I feel like this story was a long time coming and that I have taken so many photos along the way, I don’t even know where they are, so forgive me if this isn’t as visual as it could be. I also know that I have posted bits and pieces of this evolution so this also may be a bit repetitive for the die-hard No. 38 fans out there.

The photo on the left is the dining room entrance shortly we moved in almost five years ago. It originally had white modern french doors in the doorway, as the dining room was previously used to teach music lessons. At some point in the history of this room, the original pillars were removed and the doorway was left open. When the french doors were added, so were the shelves and plexiglass in the ‘windows’ on either side.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 11.57.02 PMIn my research into Arts and Crafts homes, the style of slightly tapered square pillars is a recurring motif. The columns were usually in a doorway and always made of highly grained wood. The surrounding wood was also decorative as seen from the illustration on the right. I thought it would be great if we could recreate this look, but it really became a reality when we discovered the original pillars stored in an upper shelf in the garage. They were in need of a stripping and sanding, but were in relatively good shape considering their decades of storage.

Work to bring back this entrance started several years ago when the white paint was stripped as much as possible. At the time, it also became evident that this was a ‘summer project’ due to the amount of smell caused by the paint stripper. Due to poor ventilation on the main floor despite the abundance of windows the project was put on hold in favour for other work. I was also concerned about sanding and having dust cover the upstairs and downstairs. Despite this, a couple summers ago I decided to tackle the columns anyway in preparation for their future installation.

Fast forward to our pre-Christmas home improvements where the subject of the dining room entrance came up again. John insisted that we try to take on the project again. This time my concern was finding someone who could help us with the fine carpentry work. My dad was increasingly busy with other jobs and we needed someone who we could trust with the task and respect our restoration work thus far.

Our wishes were granted when we enlisted a mutual colleague from work to help us out. Mike is a fantastic woodworker in his spare time and the challenge of helping to restore our columns and entrances was looked upon as an interesting and fun project. Mike came by before Christmas to scope out the job and let us know he could start in early January.

DSCF8731I had aDSCF8754 few unexpected vacation days in January and was able to take on the task of starting the massive sanding job in preparation for the wood trim installation. I invested in a new palm sander with a vacuum attachment. It was well worth it as it considerably cut down my dusting.


I was nervous about the dining room side panels and what to do with them. I had considered buying some veneer to put on them due to the condition of the wood and my limited success with paint stripper. Thankfully some good sandpaper and some elbow grease got the wood down to excellent condition still have visible in the final product.

When MDSCF8723ike started to work on the entrance, the first thing he did was remove the large pieces of wood perpendicular to the columns. This piece although nice was destroyed when the door frame was put in could not be restored. Thankfully we were able to reuse them for the base of the columns by cutting them down.


The next job was preparing the lower portions of the entrance and working on the additional pieces that needed to be replaced. Unfortunately some of the original pieces could not be reused. These pieces were removed prior to the final sanding. Interestingly, when the pieces were removed we found Fenton McIntyre’s name written on the back, presumably when the wood was ordered from Laidlaw lumber when the house was built.

DSCF8800DSCF8799Mike continued to work for the following weeks to ensure that the columns and trim were properly done. He even taught us a thing or two and let us have a go at using the nail gun to put the trim up. Each visit we would get a little bit closer and John and I would remark on how happy we would be with each small but important restoration.

DSCF8806Before the columns were installed, Mike made the suggestion of putting something inside of them, as they are hollow. We loved the idea and put work on hold to find some items to store inside. We opted to put a Brampton newspaper inside one column and coins inside the other. John used to be more of a coin collector years ago and was able to find a 1918 penny. The most current coins we could locate were two 2013 coins (a Laura Secord quarter and a nickel) which went at the base of the other column.

DSCF8811With the columns up, the only thing left to finish was the remaining trim. Due to the delicate nature of the fine mouldings, Mike suggested to glue rather than nail the smaller trim bits. I agreed and used a conservation technique of holding the pieces in place with tensor bandages while the glue cured (we used fish glue as opposed to hot glue which has a longer curing time and some reversability if necessary). It looked a little silly but was very effective and clamping things with little pressure and on a highly textured surface.

DSCF8817And now the overall work is done, although some sanding still needs to be finished before the staining can start. I am terribly nervous about finding the stain that will match the existing hallway colour but we have enough offcuts to test out stains that we should be okay.

The dining room isn’t finished yet, but we are well on our way to making it look elegant and authentic.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 11.57.02 PMDSCF8822DSCF8824



Merry Christ-missed!

January 26, 2014

DSCF8794 DSCF8789Merry Christ-missed No. 38 fans! We were originally meant to host Christmas dinner on December 25. Due to the ice storm and the lack of power leading up to it, we had to postpone. January 25 (exactly one month later) we were able to bring everyone together to celebrate the holidays, albeit a little late.

For us, it was our biggest gathering yet. 18 people under our roof and enjoying our home. The dining room comfortably held 13 people and we squeezed a kids table in the kitchen. All of our guests were thrilled to enjoy our house and we were happy to show off our recent changes and updates. We can happily report there will be many more gatherings in the future at No. 38.

Discoveries and changes

January 10, 2014

Hi No. 38 fans,

I swear, every post starts the same way: sorry for not writing sooner. I peaked everyone’s interest with the window steaming box and by the time I got everything finished summer was well over and fall was just beginning. Our neighbour across the street was throwing out an old window so I did use the box once to try it out and the good news it that it works! The bad news was it was too cold to remove any windows from their frames so the steaming box will have to wait until next year.

In the meantime, we made the decision this fall that we wanted to start hosting Christmas at our house. In preparation, we wanted to get the house into better shape, which started to fuel working on the house yet again and it was just the motivation we needed.DSCF8521DSCF8524

The first task was to tackle the upstairs bathroom. Since we had finished the laundry room, we had a wall of just studs behind our toilet. Although we want to renovate the washroom completely in future, we just wanted to have a room with four complete walls. My dad came over and helped us frame the remaining area that we wished to hide (primarily the stack and some extra pipes and the drywall was put into place.

The next washroom job was to fix the issue of the multicolored walls. We had been living with what was behind the first coat of wallpaper for a long time, including remnants of other wallpapers from other eras. The decision was made that if we were going to drywall, we might as well paint as well, so the wallpapers HAD to go.

I wasn’t sure how much of a job removing the wallpapers would be so I looked to my new friend Jiffy (the steam unit I bought to go with the window box) to help me remove the wallpaper, which it did. REALLY well. One thing I didn’t anticipate was layers of paint and wallpaper and paint and walllpaper and the Jiffy tore right through beautifully.



Once all the wallpaper was removed we could finally paint. We chose a complimentary beige-grey that matched the existing floor tiles. We think it looks quite nice.

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 5.22.46 PMSo after my discovery it got me thinking about the second bedroom walls from hell. My dad started these walls a couple years back with a wet sponge and a blade to peel through all the layers of paint and wallpaper and paint and wallpaper. It was such a painful process that I had not wanted to face it. But with this new Jiffy, could it be possible to use steam to get to the base layer of plaster? The answer, thankfully was yes! It is a stinky job that needs a respirator (since you are heating up all that old paint and adhesive again) but it is possible to reach the base, and at a very steady pace.

DSCF8511My technique was to hold the steam head right to the wall and apply direct pressure with the scraper to get right down to the plaster. I then had a thought: what if I pulled back on the steam and applied less pressure with the scraper? The result was the original 1914 wallpaper came through. It is now extremely acidic, but if you click on the image, you can see a diagonal checkerboard patter with its repeats showing through. I know it has to go, but I want to acknowledge it somehow beforehand…so another project on my horizon I wasn’t anticipating.

As time went on, we decided to do more with the house than just the bathroom. The momentum really reached its max as Christmas approached. Some of the changes include:


Our office...now in the upstairs hallway

Our office…now in the upstairs hallway









Our guest bedroom is now in the former office

Our guest bedroom is now in the former office


A new den is now our former second bedroom

A new den is now our former second bedroom



The window steaming box

August 5, 2013

Hi No. 38 fans,

It seems that every year there has been one big project of the year. First there was the garage door, then the garage windows, then last year the laundry room. The laundry room wasn’t completely finished last year and had to be finished this summer – primarily the woodwork – and the windows I was going to leave ‘as is’. I was just going to paint them a similar colour and be done with them. The problem was that a number of the panes had cracks in them and one had a hole. Then one of the lower sashes had some issues and would need to be removed…if I was going to fix the windows now would be the time. Sigh…the project of the year would be the windows.

I have been trying to save wavy glass for quite some time in hopes of using them for future window pane replacement, so the concept of fixing original sashes wasn’t a completely strange idea. My biggest worry about the windows though is the paint stripping and most importantly the putty in the back. Over time the putty becomes very hard and the challenge becomes restoring the windows without breaking the glass and remove the old putty without damaging the wood.

Earlier this summer we went to an antique market and I bought an old window for $3 with the intention of taking the glass out and throwing out the frame. It was not successful at all, as 3/4 of the way through I broke the glass and the frame was in rough shape after trying to break out the old putty and ruining the wood trim around the frame. I found it the best $3 I have ever spent since I learned that it was going to be a tough job to restore windows and not cause damage.

So, I went back to the internet and did some research and learned about window sash restoration and a technique that uses steam to remove paint. Most importantly, steam would also soften the putty and make the entire technique relatively fast and straightforward. Also, it indulges my love of paint strippers which are environmentally friendly and work well.

As can be seen from the video a steamer box was created in order to hold and contain the sash while expose it to a high amount of steam. As there are still a number of original sash windows to strip creating the box would be a great tool. I purchased the plans (available at http://www.oldewindowrestorer.com/steamcabinet.html) and looked to make the box.

Prior to starting the box, I purchased the steamer unit. I noticed one for sale on the Olde Window Restorer website, but truth be told, I saw the photo and then went on Amazon and found a similar, used unit for sale. Thanks to the help of friends I could have the steamer sent to the states and save on duties and shipping.


I then started this weekend with the help of my dad to undertake the building of the steambox. Although the instructions seemed straightforward, we found the instructions a big challenge and if given the chance I would love to rewrite them.

The steamer box at this point is complete, but it still needs work on the inside to complete the racking and plumbing. Watch this space for further details!

Hi No. 38 Fans,

Last month, John and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, and what would be more perfect than to celebrate in Arts and Crafts style? We decided to make a quick trip across the border to East Aurora, New York which is the home of the Roycroft Campus. For those who have never heard of Roycroft, is according to Wikipedia who can say it better than I can, “Roycroft was a reformist community of craft workers and artists which formed part of the Arts and Crafts movement in the USA. Elbert Hubbard founded the community in 1895. Participants were known as Roycrofters. The work and philosophy of the group, often referred to as the Roycroft movement, had a strong influence on the development of American architecture and design in the early 20th century.” Roycroft is made up of a collection of buildings that are still used for a variety of creative purposes. garbage canDSCF8168

The community of East Aurora seems very aware of their history. The town is not very big but has a great strip of small shops. I was extremely impressed by of all things their garbage cans, as they are made of wood and metal and each embossed with different inspirational sayings. Another highlight was Vidler’s 5 & 10 (& $1) which was the biggest five-and-dime I have ever seen. 

hallway lobbyfurniture We stayed at the Roycroft Inn, which originally opened in 1905 as a place for artisans to stay while working at Roycroft. It was reopened as a hotel in 1995. For anyone who is a fan of mission style furniture and the arts and crafts period (not to forget just about anything in quarter sawn oak) this is a must see place! We stayed in the Susan B. Anthony room and I can honestly say it was the first time I had ever been in a hotel that I genuinely wanted to take the furnishings back home with us. Even the art on the wall featured furniture that was made at Roycroft.

As this was a quick trip, we didn’t have much opportunity to explore the other buildings that make up the Roycroft campus other than the Copper Shop, which is a gift shop of all things arts and roycroftbulding1crafts. I honestly felt that I had just stepped into one of my old house magazines – I recognized many artisans whose work was featured in the shop but had never seen their wares in the flesh. Sadly there was no photography permitted, so No. 38 fans, you will have to make the trek to see it for yourself.

Before heading home we made a small detour to visit a Frank Lloyd Wright home – another first, as I had only read about them and never seen one before. For those who do not know, Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most significant American architects of the 20th century and although his work spanned several decades, a number of people feel that his earliest work has strong connections to the arts and crafts movement. He had a real sense of bringing the outside in and used a lot of wood in his designs and finishes, especially quarter sawn oak.

darwinmartinThe house we went to see was the Darwin Martin House, which was built for Darwin Martin and his family in 1905. Mr. Martin was among the richest citizens of Buffalo at the turn of the century, when many wealthy people lived in Buffalo. The house consists of several buildings including a conservatory, horse stable and gardener’s cottage.

Helloooooo no. 38 fans!

Wow, its been too long since I wrote those words! Its May already and i’m only writing my first blog post now. Yikes! Why is that? Well, there’s a few reasons. First of all, winter is never a fun time for renovations. you can’t open the windows and its just not a fun time to work if you can help it. Secondly, I got a teaching job at Ryerson which took up the rest of my fall and all winter. And lastly a new furry bundle. DSCF8096Her name is Henrietta (Hen’a for short) and just like when we got Arthur she has taken over our spare time and energy. She’s a cutie though and we are really enjoying her!

So last fall we were desperately trying to finish the laundry room before winter set in. We were itching to do laundry in our own house again. We wanted get the sink installed, a heater in place, the walls painted…so many jobs!


And here is the laundry room today! There are a few things done since the last time! We have a new baseboard radiator, the walls and ceiling are painted yellow and we now have a light fixture.

The the machines are back in place…but there was been a slight miscalculation when we worked on the floor tray for the machines. The size of the pipes in the back weren’t accounted for so the machines need to be slightly lifted in order to fit. They still need to be leveled out a bit but at least our machines function.

We were very lucky to get some cabinets which match quite nicely! DSCF8114John’s cousin had a kitchen cabinet business and was clearing out the shop and we got some of the cabinets, which look perfect! As you can see from the photo there is a gap in the cabinets which will be used to hang clothes up…once a bar is installed. DSCF8112

And for those who are wondering about the sink, the sink is in! It had its challenges but with the help of family and an excellent plumber it worked out! It needs a final coat of paint but it functions just fine.

So now works is continuing. The casings around the windows and doors and the baseboards just got stained and the varnish is underway. There is still lots to do and thankfully things are back on track.


2012 in review

December 30, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The laundry room sink

October 28, 2012

Hello No. 38 Fans,

I know, I know, its been too long…well, I apologize. I had no idea that sanding would take so l-o-n-g!

Things are really taking shape now and to give you a preview I am including a photo taken today of the painting in progress. There will be more to show next week, but until then I thought I would give you some information on our new (to us) laundry room sink.

The story, although long, is a very good example of how home restoration folk can get really involved with one purchase – it’s nothing like just going to Home Depot and picking up the first item you see and not thinking about it again.

We first spied our laundry room sink in Rochester a few years ago. It was a cast-iron utility sink with a metal rim. Of course, when you see things, you aren’t prepared to buy them, let alone drag them across the border, so our sink waited. Fast forward a bit and then we were ready to purchase it…except we couldn’t find it. We found similar sinks but no metal rim, so we waited.

I did a lot of online research in the meantime. I learned it was made by Kohler and was actually still in production. A fiberglass model is available, but it just looks weird. The cast iron version is available too – but it is extremely pricey.

When I first found Legacy Vintage online, I phoned them to inquire about our sink and they did have one, which is why we went in the first place. They had two utility sinks available and one did have the metal edge.

Off we went to Cobourg and we did indeed find our sink. What is interesting is that immediately I noticed it was missing something important – the holes for the tap, which are located in the backsplash of the sink (I did some research after the fact and learned that the sink is available in two styles – one with the holes in the backsplash and one without…the tap would be installed above the sink) After much deliberation we decided to go for it and look to have holes drilled post-purchase.

   We dragged the sink home and decided to give it a clean up. I started with just water and then a mild soap, but the gunk was having a hard time lifting. I then opted for a SOS pad (the one that has soap inside it already) and wow, did that do the trick! You can see from the before and after there is little evidence that this had been sitting outside for years.

As I was cleaning, markings started to become apparent telling me more information. The bottom was stamped in the metal on the bottom indicating that it was made in Port Hope (very close to Cobourg). I also found two logos – ‘Crane’ (on the side of the sink) and ‘Standard’ inside the drain fitting. A heritage study on the Port Hope Pier (thank you internet!) revealed that the Crane Company bought the Standard Ideal Sanitary Company in 1930 and continued to be Port Hope’s major industry until 1967. Now we have a rough date for the age and location of the sink, which was more than I thought we’d figure out.

Purchasing the sink was only one challenge. The next is how do you install it? I noticed that one of the parts we needed for the sink (where it sits on the floor) called the floor flange was missing. I asked about it when we purchased it and they said it didn’t come with the sink. Apparently when sinks were dismantled from old buildings the floor flange was encased in cement and therefore left behind.

Another major search of the internet did find floor flanges of the size that I needed, but they were quite rare. Smaller floor flanges were in abundance, but not one with a 2” center. I tried to purchase one online with the order not being successful without realizing it until it was too late. Another purchase was made by my American friend with it being transported back to Canada through friends in order for it to be installed sooner than later.

A final issue in installing the sink (besides the plumber to install it) was the brackets to fasten it to the wall. We forgot the one bracket when we purchased the sink, which means we had to make another trip to Cobourg (they did offer to ship the bracket to be fair, but we chose to go back ourselves). That worked out okay, since after looking at the sink, my dad said we needed to get further reinforcements to keep the sink upright. We opted to purchase another set of brackets to fasten into the wall to help the sink stand up.

Now the sink is in its final preparation phase, as its being painted sundried tomato red. We opted to paint the sink for a couple of reasons – a) it would be a better match for the laundry room and b) the sink was black, the drainpipe was rust and the flange was silver. It had to be all painted regardless.

So, fingers crossed, next week the sink gets its two tap holes and will be installed. When you see it in future photos you can further appreciate how one little detail can be so carefully planned.

Legacy Vintage

September 9, 2012


Hi No. 38 fans,

It’s not too often that I write and discuss a restoration house parts store in Ontario. The reality is, there aren’t many to choose from. Canada, in relation to the States, is not as concerned with house restoration and would rather build new than bring back old gems. It also doesn’t help that Canada overall has only 10% of the population of the States and probably 10% of the amount of old houses.

So, as I was doing some searching online, I found a website for Legacy Vintage in Cobourg, which is less than 2 hours from where we live. Although outdated, their website was terrific and their store looked to be very well stocked. I called them to inquire about obtaining a utility sink for the laundry room (which they had in stock and I will post about later) which sealed the deal and convinced us to take the drive.

It is sometimes hard to tell what you are going to find when you enter these old house parts stores. What was amazing right away was just how big the place was. We found out later that they have three acres worth of old house parts, although only some of them are inside a building. Several items are outside on large racks.

One thing I learned is that Sarah Richardson (a Toronto-based interior designer who has a number of television programs) goes to Legacy about twice a year. Apparently a tiny bit of their sign was visible once on a program and their popularity soared after that. Also interesting to note is that they have been receiving old house parts every day since January and haven’t had a chance to go through all their new finds.

Speaking of finds, I am including some photographs of what types of items we came across on our discovery there. In addition to a sink, we picked up a mail slot and some door hardware. We will definitely be back!


Looking into the back…


A view of some mail slots


A small selection of sinks (there were more outside)


The inside of a salesman’s suitcase


Forget your tape measure? Just borrow one of theirs!


A very small selection of light fixtures


A display case with locks and hardware


Another case with glass knobs


…and lots of other wooden exterior details!

Troughs and Tiles

September 3, 2012



Hi No. 38 fans,

Labour day weekend already – where does the time go? It has been over a month since the last post and for the most part we have been enjoying summer, with the odd small job here and there. This weekend has been monumental in terms of the laundry room and I couldn’t wait to blog about it.

Although more holes have been patched (which is wonderful, but not very interesting visually) and the new wall is slowly getting ready to be painted, the big news is the floor!

The biggest challenge overall has been the development of a floor trough. Its interesting, but on all these decorating programs and photos in magazines, when there is talk of a second floor laundry, there is no discussion of how to protect your floor from a flood if something were to go wrong with the plumbing. Although there is a drain under the washing machine, we opted to not make the whole room like a tray, but to put a trough (for lack of a better term) underneath the machines only. This would hopefully isolate the problem if one were to arise.

As you can see from the image above, the trough got put in place and it is lined with a piece of waterproof membrane (that’s why it has a pink edge). The tiles are then put inside and it will be bordered with a larger white tile. The trough is larger than the machines, so there will be a few inches around on all sides for the machines to comfortably sit.

The next big thing is the tiles! We purchased these tiles when we first moved in, with the intention of putting them down right away. After years of subfloor, it is wonderful to have tiles in place. They aren’t completely done (the remainder of the tiles and the grout will go in next weekend) but it is easy to see what the end result will look like.

What is interesting about hexagonal tiles is what a pain they are to install. They don’t say that in the old house magazines. In theory they should all fit like a puzzle and just link together…which in a sense they do…but for whatever reason not all the tiles are the same and the spacing can be slightly off. Its also tricky if the floor isn’t completely straight or level. There is also no forgiveness if you are slightly crooked if you mislay the tiles, as the mesh backing starts to dissolve when in contact with the tile adhesive and you can’t pull it up and relay the tile.

On the positive side, you can end up with very little waste. Unlike larger tiles where you cut and end up with wasted little pieces, it is easy to use every single tile in tight places.


The next steps will be to finish the tiling and the grouting. Then the new wall needs to be painted so that the machines can finally be reinstalled. For now, the machines are buried underneath tools and house parts, but definitely not forgotten! We have been using the laundromat all summer and the odd machine belonging to family members when invited for dinner. I never though i’d miss having a washer and dryer so much!