I’m sticking to my New Year’s resolution by attempting to open up more about myself on my blog. Yes, I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking. This very public opening is completely counter-intuitive because I am probably one of the most private people you’d ever wanna meet, so this is going to be a tad challenging. But, here goes: my first, official attempt at throwing open the sashes and letting you all in. Deep Breath.
Right off the bat, I’m going to let you in on a little secret – my hubby, Greg, and I are are knee deep in the midst of a rehab. I should be a little more specific – we’re in the middle of a rehab project. A mere 87 days ago, we purchased a charming (rundown), historic Queen Anne/Colonial Revival Victorian building in the East Bay that was crying out for a little TLC. Needless to say, this project has been taking up quite a bit of our time (like every week-end and large portions of each day), so I decided to fill you in on what’s been going on behind the scenes around here. And, since I couldn’t sleep because thoughts of finishing nails and power washers and back splashes were running through my head, I thought I may as well get up out of bed and write a little about it.
This is the story of how we’re turning the old Borland house into a perfect example of just how far you can take this whole creative re-use thing. I’ll be posting over the next few months about how we’ve been saving tons of cash by using salvaged materials, things we found at thrift stores, not to mention Craigslist, and generally how we have been trying to squeeze every last drop out of every penny we are spending fixing up the place.
Sometimes, I look back at the building as I’m driving away and I still can’t believe that we own it. It’s about four times bigger than our own house. I’m sure when it was built in 1913, it was the only thing around and commanded a great deal of attention. So, the story goes, and I only know this because I’ve spent hours at the research library, that the building was built by and for the Borland family who were originally from Scotland. Mr. Borland was a plasterer and his son, David, followed in his father’s footsteps and ran a very successful plastering and wallpapering company. The son married Sarah Borland, who was a big Bay Area socialite, suffragette and temperance worker. The Borlands – Robert, Agnes and their six children: David, Jeanette, Agnes, Mary, Peter and Robert called this home well into the 1940’s when they turned it into apartments during World War II.
So, what does this have to do with “thrifting”? Well, much of what we’ve been doing has been inspired by and facilitated by things we’ve found at thrift stores, Restore, Urban Ore, The Reuse People, flea markets, as well as the Restoration Hardware Outlet in Vacaville, among other sources. I hardly know where to start, since there have been literally thousands of little improvements and decisions we’ve already made since we started this endeavor. So, I guess I’ll just start at the beginning.
Getting Messy, Part One:
I’m not gonna lie. Rehabbing is a messy business. You can’t be afraid of paint chips getting in your hair (or your eyes), dust and grime becoming the new top coat on your manicure and just plain, old-fashioned hard work and elbow grease. I’ve become quite attached to a straight edge razor which I’ve found to be an excellent tool for removing old paint drips on floors and windows, as, well as baked on grease and rust on oven broilers. I’ve also learned that you kind of have to surrender to the process because you’re not going to be able to control everything that happens. Someone’s inevitably going to scratch the brand new vanity sink you scored on Craigslist, and you can’t freak out when you end up with 5 gallons of Benjamin Moore’s Buttercream paint color instead of Buttermilk. And, there’s gonna be stuff everywhere. Half-consumed bottles of coca-cola, someone’s old burrito wrapper, stacks of tile you found at Restore but then realized weren’t going to work, dirty carpet remnants left behind from demolition that are now being reused as tarps. It’s not like watching HGTV where production assistants scurry around behind the scenes tidying up after the homeowners.
But, there’s also something very rewarding and extremely creative about the entire process. I just love looking at a space and figuring out what low-cost-improvements can be done to make it shine. I really ascribe to the ‘less is more’ philosophy, so I’m not one to suggest that walls need to be moved or floor plans need to be reconfigured, unless there’s a serious design flaw. I like working with what’s already there and figuring out ways to make it better, for less.
So, I hope you enjoy my behind-the-scenes glimpse of what life is like in the middle of a rehab. In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to dreaming about cleaning a vintage tile floor with a steel wool brush, a straight edge razor, Bar Keeper’s Friend and Biz…