The Ceiling of Our Fate

As far as "inside-the-house" projects go, we've recently undertaken the most daunting of our tasks (of those we will be doing ourselves, anyway).  The wood ceiling in the great room has the potential to be very beautiful, and as the picture above shows, it doesn't look all that terrible now. But the picture below reveals how much the old shellac finish is actually hiding the natural beauty of the wood. All 800 square feet of it.
The best method we've found for removing this old finish is to scrub it with "Scotch-Brite" pads soaked in denatured alcohol, which loosens the finish from the wood, then wipe it off with a clean, wet rag. It requires a ton of effort and stamina to scrub for so long above our heads, but as you can see, the results are very rewarding when the grain pops out after years of hiding.
This method works brilliantly for most of the ceiling, but in the kitchen the wood had also been concealed by a few layers of white paint. When we took down the kitchen walls there was no longer a division between the painted and unpainted areas of the ceiling. To remove the paint, we applied a few coats of paint stripper, followed by hours of scraping and sanding. Hannah's dad spent two solid days scraping the grooves between each plank, and I've been sanding the flat surfaces for a little over a week now.
We're doing our best to quarantine the sanding dust from the rest of the house.
Getting there . . .
Looking pretty clean and almost ready for a few coats of polyurethane!


Daydreams of a Contemporist

The days are getting longer which means it is actually still light out when we get home from work now! Today, when I pulled up to our house after work, I thought, look at this place, sticking out like an eye sore in the middle of this beautiful property...

But, I have to give it more credit than that. Unfortunately, the original style of the house has been wiped away by a slew of owners that simply did not understand the design philosophy of the house; however, all is not lost! We are fortunate that the original architects, Tuchman and Canute (now TC Architects), designed a solid shell that is still holding up under the layers of paint + neglect.

Matt and I would really love to install new cedar siding on the house and perhaps even incorporate stucco in some areas. The Contemporist has been my source of inspiration for our future exterior options:

Though I daydream about the future curb appeal of our house, it is going to take some major funds to accomplish what we really desire. At least we have these long winter months to determine the perfect balance of a cost effective and super-awesome looking solution.


The Showroom

We have a new addition to the house, and that is our new set of "gently used" office furniture consisting of four chairs and a round table. The chairs are the Pollock Chair, which are classic pieces from the Knoll Studio Collection.
We got the idea of setting up the office with a conference table and chairs because it is more personal to meet with clients around a warm, inviting table, where all are equal, instead of an "us vs. them" environment behind the big desk. "Clients?" you ask. Yes, clients. Well, future clients of Harbert Renovation & Design--but more on that to come...
We are currently using the office set as our dining room set, until we purchase those pieces this summer. Matt also rigged up our old World Market paper globe lamp as temporary lighting solution until we purchase our George Nelson Saucer Lamp.

Here is a view of our temporary dining room set up:
How nice it is to eat on a table instead of in our laps or on the floor! We also recently assembled our media cabinet and put it in place. Not quite the LAX, but pretty darn close:
Task for this weekend: sanding the wood ceilings on the main level of the house. Just when we get all of this furniture in place! Because this level of the house is so open, the dust from sanding goes everywhere, so we must move or cover everything. I am starting to feel like we are living in a showroom-under-construction the way we keep moving furniture around! Stay tuned for the ceiling progress...


Concrete Progress

The dust has finally settled in our shop-vac, and the refinishing of our concrete floors is complete! Thanks, once again, to Gaetano Cement.
We have liked concrete floors for a long time, and the opportunity to have them in our own home is a dream come true. This was yet another reason we were excited about purchasing this house, so this part of the renovation process has been in our minds for a long time. We chose to have them refinished because the original rusty brown finish had grown extremely dull, and when we removed the carpet and tack strips, we were left with a combination of stains, divots and eyesores. This is what they looked like immediately after we pulled up the carpet:
And they didn't look much better even after we had cleaned them a few times:
I had hoped our floors would end up looking something like the concrete floors shown below, which are photos of the new West Akron FirstEnergy campus I helped to design (You may recognize a certain coffee table in the photo as well).
Because that was a new installation, we had total control over the color and aggregate mix at the outset. That concrete is so light in color because it was dyed light gray before it was poured. However, at our house we were dealing with an existing floor, and the properties of our concrete had been determined 57 years ago when it was poured (not to mention, it was never intended to be finished in the way we'd chosen).
So ours turned out to be much darker and more brown than we had anticipated, but we did luck out with some very cool aggregate. It is beautiful--with black, gray, brown, red and white stones scattered throughout. And what totally sets them off is the shiny, new finish (two coats of epoxy sealer and one coat of polyurethane).
We did encounter a minor hiccup during the refinishing. The concrete step between the two levels in the main area of the house was poured differently than the floors themselves, and grinding it would not have produced a finished surface.
Plan B: We had already planned on finishing the kitchen floor and step (above photo, right) with a different material, so we will carry that flooring around to the other step as well (above photo, left). We have decided on maple floors to match other finishes throughout the house. We think the wood step will look very cool between the two levels of concrete, so plan B may actually be better than plan A!
Speaking of the kitchen, isn't it time to get going on that?! Our temporary kitchen is set up down in the frigid little laundry room and consists of a tower of small appliances including a mini-fridge, microwave and toaster oven, with a coffee maker on top. We've been forced to utilize our crock pot more often (recipes, anyone?), and we also picked up a propane camping stove, which has helped tremendously. We can get by for now, but I'm looking forward to having a real kitchen again soon!