I was scoping out an online pallet generator and generally stewing over all the design recommends on picking colors for your whole house, so I made this. My house has actually, and accidentally come together pretty well in my opinion. Part inherited furniture (from family), part inherited room color (from the previous owner and/or original owner), and partially my natural leaning to red, green, and dark wood tones.
The only room not represented here is the music room; I don’t think it brings in too many more colors; it just has all of them in unbalanced abundance.
I found a small statue of St. Joseph in my front garden. Other than a disem-housed toy chimney, it is the only garden discovery I have made that is not building materials. Not immediately recognizing it, and being raised with more of the mezuzah tradition than that of the catholic saints, I had a strong inclination to put it back. I decided to clean it up and research first.
What I found is that St. Joseph, in addition to being a patron saint for families, parents and working people, is also the patron saint for home buyers and sellers. Burying a small figurine of St. Joseph upside down and facing the house will help your house to sell. You should remember where you put him, so you can retrieve him once the selling is over and give him a good place in your new house (oops to the previous owners). Since we are so happy to have found our house, we’ve given him a good place in ours.
The Catholic Supply Company has a few variations on the St. Joseph home selling kit, the one pictured is the figurine found in our garden.
Every house has them: those rooms that need sprucing, the hole that needs patching. Well, after we finally painted the pokey hallway, my kitchen became the ugliest spot in the house. It’s visible from so many places in the house, it’s just too hard to ignore.
And it’s not that it was that horrible. The no frills black cabinets and grey laminate counter tops are actually in really really good shape and better quality than I had in my last few apartments. It took some time for me to warm up to it, but I no longer want to just rip everything out. I can deal with the counter being unlevel.
What was bad about it: paint splatters around the sink and the melted butter yellow paint splotches on the blue-grey walls, holes in the drywall from an open shelf pantry we removed on the opposite wall, and a lot of dirty. The paint splatters and most of the dirty just took a lot of cleaning, but the dirt smudges just wouldn’t budge off the mat finish blue grey paint. I didn’t like the color anyway.
We also wanted to inject some midcentury style back into the 90s remodel. In my dreams, this involves minty appliances, bold colors, and restoring the partial wall that was removed to make it ‘open concept.’ In my reality, we picked some retro feeling pattern for the backsplash ala kurtcyr’s pollen-euphorbia pattern on wallpaper at SpoonFlower.com. Updating the cabinet pulls with sleeker, super simple options made a huge difference, and we painted.
The result is extreme. The semi gloss we picked makes the room glow, though the effect is hard to capture on camera with all the windows throwing off the exposure.
Eventually, we will build a kind of partition to shield the living room from the stove top, instead of allowing it to throw grease and vapors willy nilly onto upholstered furniture from it’s place in the middle of the peninsula. I know this placement isn’t so clear in these pictures; I am dribbling out my before and after snaps so you only see how awesome it all is. More will come later.
We’ve moved the pineapple. Initially I was worried about moving the plants when they were so large, but they needed sun that they weren’t getting in their original location: against the North side of the house. Without sun, they will never bloom; I found this out while trying to figure out what the plants were. I also found out that though it is really easy to grow pineapple from the top of any pineapple you buy in the store, it takes the plants two to three years before they flower and fruit. That’s a crazy investment for one primary and two secondary fruit crops before the plant is kaput.
It feels really great to look out on those derelict veggie beds and see something growing that I meant to put there, even if the pineapple plants came with the house.
A rather boring, boxy remodel was committed on my kitchen, but other than that and most of the flooring, I have a lot of original materials in my house. In fact, I have a lot of original materials outside of my house…like roof timbers, flue tiles and concrete partition blocks. Every day I am more amazed at the fact that these things have hung around for 65 years.
Before I met my house I had only ever come into contact with the standard two hole concrete block. So when we started picking up rounded bullnose blocks and skinny partition blocks around the house, I was really intrigued. I found them later in a Portland Cement Association pamphlet. It was one of many pamphlets and catalogs for home building from the 40s and 50s, included in the Internet Archive’s Building Technology Heritage Library collection. The collection’s also been pretty helpful in identifying the floor in the bedrooms (Armstrong 1949 pattern book) and the fixtures in the bathroom. It’s kind of like backwards shopping, looking at old catalogs to find a match for what’s in front of you.
I dream of finding the floorplans for my house in one of the several house plan catalogs like Practical Homes. I love how the post WWII housing boom was partially directed at the do-it-yourself home builder. The Popular Mechanic’s famous Concrete Block House, an instruction manual to the home builder, includes a lot of techniques that I think were actually used in my home.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to peruse the Internet Archive’s Building Technology Heritage Library collection yourself. It’s pretty spiffy, but a warning: you may lose several hours of your day to it.
I imagine that landscape overhauls are becoming more popular for people that can afford them, but most people inherit their landscaping from the previous owners of their homes. Older homes have years and years of decaying walkways and hidden bush and tree stumps that never get dug up or ground down when they are deemed expendable. This is what our yards are like.
I started with dreams of hauling off debris and carving out perfect pathways with brand new pavers and fencing. Then I sobered up. Inherited yards are not blank canvases, and mine came with loads of history that would be too expensive to ignore. For example, the fence surrounding the wide gate into the back yard was dry-stacked logs from trees felled by the previous owner. It was cool and we kind of liked it, until it fell down. Now it is a pile of work that laughs at us whenever we try to clean it up a little. As much as I wish all the logs would just disappear, they are raw material, and free raw material at that.
Another obstacle is that old landscaping starts to fall in on itself, grass reaches across walkways, pavers settle inches higher or lower than their fellows, flowers compete with weeds in their beds. The logs ended up being the perfect solution to put some designated areas back in my backyard.
Madagascar Periwinkle or Vinca Rosea grows like a weed in my yard and reminds me of my grandmother. I noticed that the vinca in one corner of the yard weren’t suffering the sudden death of their fellows in the front or anywhere else. Now, anytime I find a straggling vinca I move it here. I planted my Mexican Petunia in the back and it is liking the location, too. Incidentally, Mexican petunia is also a pest plant. All non hybrid forms spread rampantly through prolific seed pods. So you might say, I gave a corner of my yard to the weeds.
Yes, we have purchased a house and moved. It has sucked up every ounce of free time and money in a crazy tornado of excitement. We are still managing a list of to-dos that is a little longer than we’d like (which is why you won’t see any other photos yet), but I think we’re winning.
One of the first things I did with any speck of free computing time was to search the history of my house and the surrounding neighborhood. It’s both wonderful and a little creepy how many things you can find accessible as public information. I have a good idea who originally owned my house. It was built in 1949 and our county’s online records don’t go back that far, so I’ll need to do some real world research to complete the story. I know who bought it next, and how long they lived there, and who after that. I know the names of all my neighbors, the years that their houses were built, the crime patterns in and around our neighborhood, and how much every house last sold for.
Our house was built just before the zenith of mid-century design trends, but it has plenty of characteristics of mid-century houses, especially since it was expanded upon in the 60s. Post WWII decorating is usually identified as being spare, thankful and very patriotic. Red, white, and blue were often seen as color schemes. There was a big trend towards outdoor living and incorporating those themes inside as well. Our house has managed to hold on to bits of these ideas: The pink and blue of the bathroom tiles with white commode, tub and sink have that late 40s patriotism. It is ranch style, situated facing south and set wide on the lot so that windows and views of outside (especially the back yard) surround you when you are indoors.
The picture here is through a back window over the raised garden beds just off the porch. You can tell we’re in Florida–even the weeds look pretty (for now) as our neighborhood embden geese look for a snack.
Yet, my house is not mid-century modern. It has no transom windows, pine, or terrazzo floors. It is, as The Mid-Century Modest Manifesto at Retro Renovation says, like the hundreds of other mid-century houses built for the average American family. I like the mid-century modest idea, and I would like to retain the existing original components of my home and return as much of the updated areas to something more like what they were. Retro Renovation is an excellent resource site. Once I’ve got our bathroom more up to snuff I will show it off on Save the Pink Bathrooms. I’ve also found Atomic Ranch magazine and Mid Century Home Style excellent help.