Natural Beauty

While there’s are still some fairly major changes coming (pillars!), there’s also a lot of finishing detail happening.

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The porch trim is all painted out, as are the pillar supports. The front paint job just lacks the black detailing. It’s a very handsome picture. (Picture taken by Eric Carrington of Newlook Remodel, our painting contractor.)

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This is from about a week later. If you look closely, you can see that the porch ceiling (fir beadboard finished as yellow pine) has been completed, and they’re putting up detail trimming under the porch fascia.

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Here’s a better picture of the porch ceiling, before its final finish is applied, as well as a close-up of the fascia.

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The beautiful Douglas fir floor, in all its autumnal glory, contrasting vibrantly against the gray and white of it’s painted companions.

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The redwood treads of the permanent stairs…

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…and their white painted risers.

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Just finished painting the last pillar support plinth.

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A view of the original front door with it’s newly painted white surround. I’m not sure what the plans are for the unpainted strip of trim at the top of the door surround. The dental molding marks are from the little porch era, I’m told, so it won’t be replaced, anyway. I guess every construction project wants to maintain a little mystery!

Published in: on October 27, 2014 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pillars and Flooring and Molding, Oh My!

It just gets better and better.

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We’re starting to see some of the finished white trim on the porch. They’ve also finished the trim on the second floor; the ugly brown stripe has been replaced with clean white and black wrapping around the house.

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And later, even more white. This picture gives a different idea of how the shape of the porch works with other elements of the house’s architecture. It’s an arresting conglomeration of shapes that somehow come together in a harmonious whole. Plus, the contrast of under the porch and over the porch is visually interesting – different light values, and a much stronger sense of the horizontal and vertical below; it’s almost void of any other type of element. Above, you get a better view of the new second floor molding just below the roof line.

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And look! Gray and white on the porch wall, so recently painted it’s still shiny and you can see the brush strokes.

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More details of the roof molding. It looks almost Japanese to me at this stage – the contrast between the painted and natural elements and the intricate-but-simple shapes, I suppose. Not to mention the juxtaposition of the built and non-built environments. I like it.

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A peek at the new porch floor. The dropcloth offers protection from construction damage, but I peeled it back for a better look. Douglas fir is a beautiful choice for flooring, and it contrasts so nicely with the gray.

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There’s been one element conspicuously absent from our resplendent Victorian porch so far – the pillars! Here they are, ready for more paint, and patiently awaiting the chance to escape the carriage house.

Ladder against house from Eric

Speaking of painting, here’s a vertiginous view that gives you some idea of what it takes to paint a three story Victorian – a real head for heights. (Picture taken by Eric Carrington of Newlook Remodel, our painting contractor.)

Dad at front door from Eric

Here’s Bill, owner of the B&B, standing proud on his new porch. (Picture taken by Eric Carrington of Newlook Remodel.)

Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Puzzle and an Art Gallery

The porch has come a loooong way.

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It’s much more substantial looking with impressive molding.

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Here’s a better look at what’s been done from below. The support structures are in place on the roof, sheathed to keep out the weather for construction. You can also see here the final disposition of the architectural elements – the porch roof both wrapping closely around the 2nd floor bow window and resting right on top of the flush 1st floor window. It all makes so much more sense!

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This is the side support beam for the base of the porch. This porch isn’t going anywhere.

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It’s a bit like a 3D jigsaw puzzle; the intricacies of all the elements and forces working together to create a stable and beautiful structure.

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And now for something completely different:  a residential construction site still life.

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Even this far into the process, I’m still noticing details on unfinished parts of the house. Here’s an interesting discoloration and crack on one of the back corner pilasters. Was it originally two colors? Is this evidence of two different pieces of wood, showing their natural coloration? Some sort of burn damage? Although I don’t think I’m seeing any of the textures that would go with that last. Hmmm.

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The painting is coming on as well. The back of the house shows the contrast between the old paint scheme and the new, without the scaffolding. Very different. The windows are giving us an art show too, courtesy of the beautiful prairie skies. You can see on the right window that the screens and storms haven’t been put back yet after having been removed for painting.

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A detail of the finished paint job; silver, black, white, and gray. Dignified, crisp, and clean.

Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 5:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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All it Needs is a Lick of Paint

Well, that’s not quite true, but the paint sure helps.

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From the white siding and green trim it’s had for at least 35 years (and who knows how much longer) to gray siding. And it’s quite the process on a house this size. I wouldn’t want to be up on that ladder.

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Yeah, the green’s really not working with the gray. How about white, instead?

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Much better. Clean, crisp, and classy. What an interesting arrangement of window shapes, too.

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The white also shows off the details in the trim.

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And the warm lights of home glow welcomingly against the gray.

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The carriage house is being painted to match.

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Still useful for storage even if this is the only horse calling it home now-a-days.

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A preview of the finished paint design. The addition of the black really makes everything pop.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Roof in the Making

The difference between a patio and a porch is the roof. This is definitely a porch.

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On the stair overhang you can see the bones of the eaves, currently resembling a stylish pergola. This also offers a different view of how the porch will interact with the other architectural elements of the house. I love how the temporary views offered during construction give you a chance to see things in a way you haven’t before, and probably won’t again. Plus the play of line and shadow in this picture is just cool.

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The porch roof supports are designed to miss the corner pilasters, even though the eaves will cross them. This minimizes the damage to these important vertical design elements, something for which the smaller-porch-that-was builders must have been thankful for. Remember, the house wasn’t re-sided until later, so the pilasters were still exposed after the smaller porch went up. In fact, they were more prominent at that point than ever before.

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The groove caused by the porch eaves in the left-hand pilaster isn’t too bad. And it’s important as a guide for the new construction. There’s a lot the designers learned about the original porch from the traces it left behind.

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The permanent floor of the new porch will be much more attractive than the temporary.

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I’m not sure the same can be said for the ceiling. But I’m sure it’ll be better protection from the weather.

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You can see how the new roof joists are nestled right up to the 2nd floor bay window, working their way around it.

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And here you can see the complicated interaction of the various roof elements, accentuated by the play of light and shadow, and in stark contrast to the organic chaos of the trees beyond. I’d like to say something about the juxtaposition of the milled wood and living trees, of nature bent to humanity’s needs, but I’m not sure what. So I won’t.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Built on a Foundation of Stone, Old and New

A grand porch must have grand supports.

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Solid cement pilings, partially buried, and the visible portions clad in the very same stone pieces that made up the original porch’s buried pilings, excavated to make way for the new. The same local limestone makes up the house’s foundation; one bit of natural material that didn’t escape the mid-20th-century paintbrush, sadly.

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The same ancient stone is used in hundreds, if not thousands, of structures in this part of the city, including the walls of what’s reputed to be the oldest extant house in St. Paul, located on W 7th St. It’s now in the courtyard of a restaurant.

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The other completed limestone-clad piling with the roughed in pillar support on top.

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One of the pillar supports by the stairs. You can see here how the bit of floor leading to the stairs extends beyond the general front line of the porch, adding square footage and more opportunity for pillars. The more pillars the better, obviously!

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Although most of it is gone, there are a few bits of the porch-just-removed that are staying, mainly because they don’t interfere with the new construction, and are not worth the trouble of getting rid of. One such are the porch supports, that bit of cement block you can see through the floor joists here.

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Another, surprisingly, are the old porch stairs. Cast out of solid cement and made to last, you’d need a jackhammer to remove them.

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Why bother when they fit so nicely under the new design? Also, as Bill says, it’s something for future owners and renovators to get excited about when they find them. It’s important to leave a legacy.

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You can see that the support structures that will be hidden are plain cement block, not nearly as attractive as those that will be exposed, but equally strong.

There’s something appealing about that last picture. Harmony in the chaos of construction. Permanent and temporary elements working together to create a solid, beautiful final product. And a domestic construction site on an autumn day with sunny summer still reflected in the windows.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Porch Fit for a King

The porch is coming along nicely.

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The shell of the bottom of the old porch with the ghost of its top. That stunted porch served the house and its occupants to the best of its ability for decades, but it’s time for it to retire in favor of something better. Farewell!

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The poor old porch is gone, leaving just its stairs. All around it you can see indications of something new (and better) to come.

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There’s now a bridge from the old stairs to the door, cleverly ensuring that guests always have safe access to the B&B. There was some question as to whether a permanent drawbridge and moat might not be an option. Alas, ultimately not. The outline of the new porch has been mostly framed in.

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Look! New stairs! And floor joists! Enticing to kids playing in the gloaming with lit windows glowing around them.

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A more workman-like view of the progress. Frame and stairs, with one pillar support post roughed in and another in process nearby. As soon as the joists were laid, a temporary floor was put down between the stairs the the door. Safe,  solid, and easy access to the B&B is always a priority.

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The roof! And the second pillar support completed and installed.

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A more definitively framed roof with some rafters. See how the roof going all the way across nestles right under those oddly shaped bay windows above and makes them fit in with the completely flat windows below? You can already see how the windows are going to make a lot more sense architecturally when the porch roof is completed.

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For a sense of scale, here’s Bill, using his new stairs. He asked, “Do I deserve such a regal porch?” The answer is yes!

The new porch is the previously missing element that’s going to make this house’s architecture sing.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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More Renovation News

Here are some more pictures from the renovation.

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Here’s the house with the porch stripped down to its essentials – no siding or skirting – preparatory to its being taken down all together.

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Up close the rough boards that make up the core of the porch smell like a historic log cabin; old wood and time.

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These stones were part of the infrastructure of the original porch and will be reused to clad the supporting piers for the new porch.

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They’re patching up the holes and filling in the gaps in the old siding left by various incursions over time, including insulation, rot, and removal.

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Color is also starting to come into play. Due to the scraping, you can see old layers of paint on siding – buff – and trim – white.

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And here’s someone’s opinion on either the new paint color or the entire process.

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Renovation Update and Domestic Archaeology

So the renovation is going very well. The work crew is replacing boards and patching holes, getting everything ready for power washing and painting. We’ve also chosen paint colors, which is often fraught. So many opinions! Thanks to hard work and good planning, we’re still on schedule, and business at the B&B is proceeding as usual, which makes everyone happy.

Here are a couple of things I’ve gleaned from seeing the house stripped of it’s newest layer.

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First, the fact that the porch has clapboard siding tells me that it was replaced before the house was resided with the newer version. I had always had it in my head that they were part of the same process, but that’s obviously not the case.

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Second, it was something of a shoddy job. Which, granted, we already knew, given that everything is off-center on that porch:  the porch to the house, the porch’s peak to the base, the stairs, etc. Not to mention that the porch’s shape is absolutely wrong for the house. But the metal corner caps in the picture, used when someone doesn’t take the time to miter the corners properly, confirms it.

This also offers more evidence for our theories about the porch. Porches take a fair amount of maintenance given their construction and exposure; we’ve had to make extensive repairs on ours over the years. We figure that the original porch disintegrated to the point that it had to be removed during the boarding house years, and lack of funds was why they built what they did.

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On the other hand, there were some choices that added a degree of hominess to the porch. The ceiling has always been stained beadboard; in recent years a nice contrast to all the ugly siding. The porch’s builders’ use of beadboard extended to the interior walls of the porch. A nice detail, and a nice contrast to the clapboard, making it seem more like an interior. All that was covered by ugly siding eventually.

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And finally, ghosts from the past. There were at least four mailboxes hanging on the house in it’s heyday as a boarding house. I’m not sure how many are covered by the plywood barrier (that’s what you see on the right in the picture), but that would give us an idea of the size of the operation and the number of people living in the house at the time the newer siding went up. Knowing that and the layout of the house, we can make educated attempts at answers to other questions. What was considered a decent size living space in a boarding house? How was the house divided up? Where did people live?

Very exciting!

Published in: on August 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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Exterior Renovation Proceeds on Schedule

First, let me reassure the worried that the B&B is open for business as usual, and that our renovations only affect the outside of the building. Nothing is being done inside; all the work’s already been done there, as you can see from the photos at our website.

488 from the outside, C. 2003So, this is what we started with. Unattractive broad siding that was put on sometime between the 1930s and 1971, and covered up most of the detail of the house. There’s also a porch that was replaced, badly, sometime in the same time period. Essentially a box with a few Victorian-ish features. Unremarkable and kind of odd looking.

488 Holly during exterior renovation, Aug 18, 2014Here’s where we are after all the ugly siding has been removed. The original clapboards are in surprisingly good shape, considering their age.

However, there’s still some work to do before painting can commence.

Detail of 488 Holly exterior renovation, Aug 18, 2014There are missing boards to be replaced.

Detail of 488 Holly exterior renovation, Aug 18, 2014There are holes to be patched, both from blowing in insulation (the round holes) and wear and tear.

488 Holly exterior renovation, Aug 18, 2014We also need to recreate some of the molding that was removed in favor of the ugly siding. It stuck out too far for the siding to go over it, and was inconveniently placed for it to go around. The dark stripes at the top of the pilaster at the corner of the house show where molding is missing, for instance.

Once everything is ship-shape and tight, we power wash and then on to the painting. It’s very exciting!

We’ve already made enormous progress towards our endpoint. You can really start to see it.

488 Holly in c.1930s

Published in: on August 19, 2014 at 4:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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