Yard (And House) Beautiful

We’ve completed the final phase of the outside renovation of the B&B – landscaping.

Last autumn ended with a newly elegant house on a bare patch of ground, soon hidden by the grace of winter. No one expects much landscaping in a Minnesota January.

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This spring, we first finished the last details on the house, including completing the lattice under the porch and reinstalling the original porch light fixture.

Then we started creating an outdoor setting that would complement our gracious B&B. As the backyard remained untouched through the renovation process, our efforts focused mostly on the front yard, with some attention paid to the side yards, as well.

The first step was cleaning up and grading the front yard. This included a lovely new layer of top soil to welcome the soon-to-be-arriving sod.

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We also put in a stepped retaining wall, with room for a planting bed, thus eliminating the hill down to the sidewalk.

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We used Chilton Wall Stone both for its shape and its natural varied coloration. It definitely adds pizzazz, don’t you think?

We also put stone borders around the porch, leaving room for a gravel bed (3/4 gray trap),

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lined the new herringbone walk, which now matches the width of our grand porch steps,

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and created two interesting, if small, planting beds designed to visually ease the transition between the differing widths of the walk and the cement stairs down to the sidewalk, and play with the fact that those stairs are off-center to the walk. They are, however, aligned with the walk to the street, which in itself is visually off-kilter due to the extra concrete pad designed to make alighting from vehicles less messy due to snow and mud. The visual geometry’s a little complex.

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Here we are with the stone in, the sod laid, and the boulevard seeded.

Next, the plants!

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We planted tuberous begonias alternating with hostas in the retaining wall bed and just hostas around the tree,

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astible in the little beds next to the stairs,

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and hydrangeas in the side yard.

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Beautiful grounds

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for a beautiful house.

Published in: on October 1, 2015 at 6:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Floor Washing Magic

In visiting our fine B&B, have you noticed the drain in the kitchen floor, and that everything in the kitchen is built up off the floor? Well, this post is going to reveal the heart of this mystery:  Cathedral Hill B&B’s floor washing system!

When Bill remodeled the kitchen in the 1980s, he had 5 children with more on the way, and keeping the kitchen floor clean was not easy – a mop just wasn’t cutting it, and hands and knees is so 19th century. So he decided to install a complete system that was (and still is) effective, efficient, and enjoyable.

The first step is to get everything off the floor. All of the built-ins are designed that way, so that just leaves the chairs…

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and the table.

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A winch comes out of the ceiling at the touch of a switch, and the table gets hooked to it using a contraption built out of a steel plate and car seatbelts, which are, of course, rated for a lot of weight. The other ends of the seatbelts are on the bottom of the table. When the winch is raised back into the ceiling…

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the table goes with it and is out of the way. (You do have to be careful not to bump your head on the legs.) The decks are cleared for the warm water.

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A key is required to turn the water on, thus preventing accidental flooding. Smart, Bill!

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There are pipes just above the floor in different parts of the kitchen…

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four in total…

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giving complete coverage.

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Then soap is added; squirted directly onto the floor.

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There’s a long-handled brush for scrubbing,

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and a long-handled squeegee to coax the water down the drain when the floor’s clean.

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The final step is to wrap a large towel around the squeegee to dry the floor.

Even if the floor is swept first (which we heartily recommend!), there’s often detritus to clean off the drain as well.

Let down the table, and you’re done.

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With a half-hour’s work, you’re left with a sparkling,

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clean floor.

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The family has a lot of good memories of this system.

One year the house was on the Ramsey Hill House tour, and the newly renovated kitchen was the prime attraction. Bill built a bridge from the kitchen door to the back door and ran the floor washing system the whole time. People were very impressed.

Over the years there’ve been a lot of kids in and out of this house, and they love to slip’n’slide across the wet kitchen floor. The adults enjoy watching them. That last happened a few months ago.

I know Anona is wearing shoes in the above pictures, but as kids, we often didn’t. Who wanted to forgo the opportunity to go wading and splashing during a Minnesota January?

Another mystery solved.

Published in: on September 28, 2015 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Lushly Colorful Back Yard

The lush backyard is another restful place to sit and enjoy your stay at Cathedral Hill Bed & Breakfast.


It’s colorful with flowers and greenery, and the fire pit is welcome when the weather starts getting crisp.


The covered seating area on the deck offers shelter in inclement weather for a smallish group.


From the deck you have a view of the carriage house with a reminder of its former inhabitants.


You are also shaded by the pussy willow tree, that displays its fuzzy flowers in the spring.


The other seating area has an almost French café feel, with the intimate groupings of tables, the umbrellas, and the profusion of vines.


Adding to the European flair is the lion-headed fountain, peeking out from the greenery, ready to fill your outside sojourn with the restful sound of burbling water.

As our guest, we urge you to use our outdoor spaces as you would our indoor rooms, to relax, recreate, and meet up with friends.

Welcome to Cathedral Hill B&B.

Published in: on August 25, 2015 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Porch of our Dreams

Cathedral Hill Bed & Breakfast is as beautiful outside as it is inside, with many charming and comfortable places to relax and congregate.


Put our grand new porch to good use as a scenic spot for a little R&R.


Behold, our new porch furniture, that not only gracefully complements the style of house, but is also really comfortable.


While away the afternoon chatting or reading with a glass of something cold.


The B&B’s wifi is easily accessible.


And the views can’t be beat. Whether it’s the historic details of the porch itself,


encouraging you to imagine you’re back in 1897 on the original newly constructed porch surrounded by potted palms,


or taking in the area’s Victorian architecture,


and lush greenery. Sit and watch the neighborhood go by, seeing and being seen.

Our front porch is one of the new amenities we’re proud to offer our guests.

Congratulations! It’s Victorian!

So, let’s review.

488 in c.1930s

Here’s the house in about 1942. Our goal and inspiration for change…

488 from the outside, C. 2003, probably taken by Katy Gray

…from this. The legacy of mid-century modernistic tendencies (i.e. clean lines), practicality (because that never-have-to-paint siding really is much more practical than wood), and budget. None of which aesthetically serve a 1896 Victorian built by a banker wanting as gracious a home as his substantial wealth would allow. Our lovingly playing catch-up with that aesthetic service brings us to (drumroll please)…


…this. Not bad. Pretty darn spectacular, in fact, if we do say so ourselves. Hardly recognizable as the same house.


No matter what angle…


…you view it from, the transformation is astounding,…


…the results elegant, gracious, and welcoming,…


…and already offering new places to congregate or step away from the crowd.


Our home feels like a Victorian mansion from the outside as well as the inside, finally,…


…and it wears its vividly historic colors proudly, from up the block…


and down.

I think the banker would be pleased. I know we sure are.

Published in: on December 8, 2014 at 7:40 am  Comments (2)  
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Tying Up the Loose Ends

We’re at the point of cleaning up some final details.


We created replica lattice for the bottom of the porch. The original idea was to clean up some original we found, but it would have been prohibitively expensive.


We finished up the faux stone paint treatment on the foundation of the house.


The front door trim has been created…


…and painted, giving the front door surround a substantial and clean look. Especially as it’s contrasted by the naturally finished original oak door.


A new house number display and a painted and rehung mailbox finish off the entry. (The wreath, while fetching, is not part of the holiday decorating plans. The letter carrier would not be happy as the mailbox opens from the top.)

The last big project is a new roof for the house, which, while not adding to the aesthetic, does have the benefit of keeping out the weather. And then we just keep working away at the last small details until the project is finished. At least for this round. You know what they say about historic houses….

Published in: on December 8, 2014 at 6:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Exciting developments!


We have added  most of the standard porchy frills, including…


fluted pillars, round and square…


and railings, complete with ranks of turned spindles.


These elements work harmoniously with the existing trimly furbelows…


to add a truly elegant character to the sheltering and structural functionality of the porch.


Some of the round pillars were original to the house, making up the first porch. They were cut down for the little porch, and built back up for our new beauty.


Unfortunately, measuring twice doesn’t always prevent mistakes, so we had to do some adjusting to get a perfect fit.


But, you’d never know it from the final product.


The square pillars were constructed in situ. (That’s almost a visual history of the clamp right there.)


Those were the last major elements needed to make the house look like it truly belongs in our historic neighborhood.

Published in: on December 8, 2014 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Corbels and Consultations

We’re busy and excited.


Still no pillars, but lots of activity on site. The fellow in the dark shirt on the right is shaping corbels out of blocks of wood.


And here they are being painted, along with spindles, and doesn’t the paint gun make that job a heck of a lot easier!


Here are the corbels installed, along with a glimpse of the finished paint job on the third floor dormer.


A view of the porch’s completed yellow pine ceiling, and someone already enjoying its expansive shelter.


A close-up of the faux finish on the house’s foundation. We decided, upon experimentation, that removing the green paint would be way too resource intensive. It’s a much better fit with our color scheme than the green would have been.


The owner, architect, and contractor consulting. We’re much closer, but there’s still a ways to go before all the details are taken care of.


A beautiful Minnesota October day, one of the last hurrahs before the snow flies, part of which we spent lunching outdoors. Maybe next October someone will be enjoying lunch on this welcoming front porch watching the world go by.

Published in: on December 8, 2014 at 12:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Natural Beauty

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

From Eric Carrington, New Look Remodeling 2014-10-18 151027

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.)

From Dad 2014-10-24 WP15_03_40_Pro

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


Here’s a better picture of the porch ceiling, as well as a close-up of the fascia.


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


The redwood treads of the permanent stairs…


…and their white painted risers.


Just finished painting the last pillar support plinth.


A view of the original front door with its 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 will be replaced, at least. 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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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  Comments (1)  
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