The State of the House - part 1

6:02 PM

Our house as seen on a tour of it in June 2016
These days, my head is spinning and my mind is churning with ideas, thoughts and project lists related to fixing up this old house. Any free time I have is spent watching Youtube videos on plaster repair. Or images of wood floors used in the 1890s to identify what I have on the second and third floors (I think it's pine). I have been scouring blogs about old home renovations/restorations, particularly those of DIYers. I now officially fall into that category. 

Side shot of the June 2016
I've researched and tried to find out everything I can about houses built in the Chicago area during the late 1800's.  I recently checked out a bunch of books from the library on the Far North Shore of Chicago and its beginnings. From what I've read, our part of Chicago was originally called Birchwood and was established by a Mr. Rogers who bought up all the land in these parts - mostly just forests of birch and oak.  In April 1893, Birchwood or Rogers Park was annexed to the City of Chicago. That's also the year our house was built. Although we've seen documentation saying it was built in 1891, too. No one is sure. It doesn't matter. It's old. That much is clear.

Given the age of this house, it's understandable that it needs work. Old houses require upkeep and this house, occupied as it was by self-admitted hoarders, requires more than most.  Possibly because they devoted their time and money to collecting antiques instead of keeping the house ship-shape.  

And that's where we come in. Either as total lunatics, visionaries or a little of both. Luckily, Kyle and I have no intention of flipping this house, so there's no rush to get anything done. We intend to live here as long as the Lord will let us. Meaning, our projects will be well thought out, considered, and spread out over the years, as time and money permit.  As you might suspect, if you know me, I have spreadsheets itemizing the things to do around this house - separate tabs for outside the house and inside the house, room by room.  I have attempted to prioritize things, which is where my mind sort of goes into a freeze mode. I have a hard time really narrowing in on where to start. 

I recently read an article from a woman who bought an 1860's farmhouse in Connecticut with her husband and son and she recommended starting with the messiest task first. That would mean the boys' room with the hole in the plaster where the lath shows through. That's definitely gonna be messy. 

 To be fair to us, we have already done some stuff - and it was very messy.
We ripped up the carpet on the second and third floors, which I believe had been in place for approximately 40+ years. You can only imagine how much cleaner the air feels. The stuff literally disintegrated as we pulled it up. YUCK.

Oh, and as I write this, it pains me to say that I hear scurrying little feet in the wall above me. Yes, we have critters. Squirrels for certain. Possibly an opossum or two. I can literally trace their path around the edges of the walls and it would totally freak me out if I wasn't a little used to it by now. It does gross me out, and we are in the process of having a guy come figure out all the potential places these critters are getting in, sealing them off and trapping the animals. I don't intend to let this house remain the animal hostel it currently is. Ugh.

So, let me give you a guided tour around the place (or the first part of the tour). You've already seen the front door. Original stone all around it and the whole front porch. 

Once you walk inside the front door, there is a second door that you walk through to get in the house. It's really handy - keeps out the cold air very effectively. It's also nice to shed wet boots for drying.

Directly to your right as you enter is a coat closet. It has shelves inside which are doubling as some of my make-shift bookshelves, as I currently have no library. It also has the most gorgeous window!

Then the living room and stairwell to upstairs...

As you can see, there is a small landing on the stairs which contains a bay window. The windows currently have these hefty glass shelves which used to display some sort of a glass collection. I haven't removed them because they're seriously well made shelves and they came in handy for Christmas decorations.

Directly to your left upon entering the foyer is what I call the "library." As of yet, it doesn't have real bookcases, but it will someday. I have enough books to definitely need a legitimate library. That's on my list.

This is pre-move in, there is no furniture in some of these pictures.

On the other side of the library, the wall has these communion rails which were installed by the Bitterman's (previous owners).

The living room has a beautiful stone fireplace that we have yet to use. I know it works, but it hasn't been used in the past 5 years, so we feel we need to get it checked out prior to using. Maybe not. We're a little chicken. That doorway to Kyle's left is to a half-bath that also connects to the kitchen.

Looking into the living room from the foyer.

This is me playing with furniture arrangements...

Looking into the living room from the dining room doorway.

Living room shot again.

The bay windows looking out onto the street.
The box thing over by the windows is a radiator which has a marble cover and they put shutters in the front. Interesting.

Now we're in the dining room - this is RIGHT after we moved in. Although boxes still line the walls - they contain all the artwork. We have yet to hang a single piece of art on the walls. All in good time.
You can kind of see an awning covering the outer part of the window to the right. This was one of the first things we removed as it blocked a TON of light.

See? Awning much more light streams in. 

I like the view from this vantage point. I can see people walking by on the sidewalk, plus into the living room. It's nice.

This is the breakfast room. It's located directly off the dining room. To the immediate right is the entrance to the kitchen. And yes, I will be painting this room. I am not a tangerine color kind of girl.

And here is the kitchen. Maple flooring begins here, as opposed to the oak floors elsewhere downstairs. This kitchen was re-done by the Bitterman's, but clearly that was a very long time ago. Probably early 70's. It needs to be completely re-done, and it will be, but not for some time. I anticipate changing it in stages - first with paint, just so I can bear to be in there, and once I figure out how to best redesign it, then I'll work towards that. 

I have definitely regressed from the awesomeness of my previous kitchen, but I knew that going in to this. What I loved about this house was that it offered me the opportunity to do the kitchen how I wanted to - not with a generic upgrade done with standard things like granite, etc. that I would have re-done anyway. This way, I get to carefully consider my changes, save money for it all and not have to pay for work someone else did that I don't like.

There is another communion rail as part of the hand-rail leading to the backdoor and basement entrance.

Looking back from the kitchen.

This is the swinging door from the kitchen into the dining room. 

Here is the pantry and the doorway you see is the back stairway - the servant's stairway. I LOVE it.

Then, here is the little half-bath the connects the kitchen to the living room. It's set up very antique-y, thanks to Bindy Bitterman. She installed vintage train lights as the sconces. That, I think is very cool. 

I even like the paisley wallpaper! 

Inside the half bath downstairs is a closet under the stairs that we affectionately call the Harry Potter room.

It is situated directly beneath the stairs, hence the sloped ceiling, and it's currently a storage closet, mostly for light bulbs. Almost all of which were left by the Bitterman's.

Not sure of the functionality of the little shelf behind the door. Unless someone was actually occupying this room, in which case it could be handy. It's really only good for temporarily leaving a tape measure as you rifle around for the right light bulb. 

And folks, that's pretty much the first floor. 
Since that was already a lot, I'll save the second and third floors for another post.
Be sure to tune back in. The second and third floors is where it gets interesting...and where you might begin to question our sanity. 

Enjoying our first snow!!!

See you later!

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  1. I can't wait to see how you and Kyle bring this house back to the beauty it once was. Love reading your blog and keeping up with you and your family.