Sunday, November 27, 2011

Renovation pride

In June of 2006, Matt and I bought a house.

We wanted something low-cost, since it was our first. I was gung ho about fixing it up myself, since I pretty much grew up renovating and I'm handy like that. So we ended up buying the cheapest house in the area. $82,000 for a two-bedroom semi-detached. And ohhh boy was it a fixer upper. When we walked in, the walls were yellow from decades of indoor tobacco use; they were literally coated in nicotine. I knew everything needed to be gutted and redone. But I was keen. And somehow, I managed to convince Matt to go along with it.

Our real estate agent and our housing inspector thought we were completely insane and advised us not to buy every step of the way.

Five years later, after the expected helpings of blood, sweat and tears, the interior is finished, and we're (more than) ready to rent the place out - after we show it off a little online, because GODDAMN we are proud. I've blogged our progress occasionally along the way, but here are some specific before/after shots to give you a small idea of our work.

The basement stairs were rickety and a little worm eaten, so we replaced them with treated wood. The foundation wall itself, being made of mortared field stones and more than 100 years old, was in terrible need of tuck pointing - I'm glad I finally plucked up the courage to tackle that this summer and probably saved us about $8,000. We still have to install a handrail, but it's pretty much complete.

For a period of about ten days, we didn't even have a working toilet. The local McDonald's saw us regularly at all hours. Matt embraced his inner redneck and shaved with a hose in the backyard. Understandably, we tackled this room first. The brand new bathroom cost us a total of about $500 in materials, mostly spent on the glass blocks, as we got some killer deals on the toilet and bathtub. Perhaps the only thing more baffling than the sash windows in the original bathroom is the chair-rail strip of wallpaper depicting the heads of big cats (there is a better shot of this monstrosity in one of the slideshow photos below).

Next we finished the kitchen, which was quite a job. Above you see it as we bought it. All the electrical appliances were connected to a power strip from the 1960's that you can see fastened to the wall below a window that was missing a pane of glass. The sink was from 1947 and leaked. We know the year of manufacture because there were a bunch of 1947 newspapers beneath the "rug" in the main bedroom, and we found an advertisement for the exact sink within.

First we took down the kitchen wall. At the time, I was napping upstairs when I was awoken by the most horrendous noise; it sounded like a war had broken out. I ran into the kitchen to find Matt, Jordan (pictured above) and four or five neighborhood boys I didn't know blithely laying into the wall with hammers. As I recall, I was extremely freaked out. Especially when I saw that there was about three cubic feet of wasp nest insulating the outer wall (we had not yet discovered this in the above photo). Luckily the wasps were not resident.

Not satisfied with the walls, we also set to demolishing the floor, which had been rotted out by the leaking 1947 sink. The rot had spread to the joists, so we sistered those to treated wood beams and replaced the subfloor completely before tiling.

I should also mention here that I learned during the process of building the kitchen that staining cabinets is my absolute least favorite job of all time. I think I hate it even more than sanding ceiling drywall. I built the plate rack you can see above the sink with some dowel and scrap wood after I saw one in a cabinetry display with a repulsively high price tag - it seriously looks exactly the same as the one in that showroom.

The main living area (look at that beautiful wallpaper) was almost a breeze compared to the cramped rooms with all the complicated plumbing and rot problems. I impulsively decided to take down the stupid arch wall, and I'm so glad we did. Combined dining/living rooms are where it's at, especially in a house this small.

Progress on the exposed brick wall was documented here.

Here's the view from the arch (or where it used to be) to the front door. New door, new window, new walls, new ceiling, new lighting fixture, new molding, new floor ... it's all new.
Except that HVAC grate. It was a non-standard size, so we had to keep the old one and refinish it.

This is probably my favorite feature of the living room. The original rooms had these exposed pipes and ductwork running floor to ceiling. When I say "exposed," what I mean is that they were actually covered in wallpaper and then painted. Yeah. We decided to box them in, and because I hate wasted space, I recessed some built-in shelving into the covering wall. The column you see was necessary because the ceiling beam above the arch was poorly supported at that end.

Stairs: original, in progress, and complete. The door you see in the first photo was dismantled and the wall to its right taken down so the basement entrance is now right at the top of the basement stairs.

This is the view from the top of the stairs, in progress and complete.

And finally, the bedrooms. The master bedroom was the only room in the house where the plaster was in decent enough shape to patch and keep. I'm very happy with the closets we built in both rooms. They're better than the closets in two of the bedrooms of our Philly house.

Here are some occasionally hilariously horrifying shots of the renovation in progress. Looking back at them, I can't believe we lived like that for so long. But I'm laughing, so I guess it was worth it.

And here is a pretty slideshow of higher-res photos Matt took today. I present our masterpiece of home improvement:

So. Who wants to rent a nice new house in Downingtown?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Karlheinz Stockhausen and David Icke, sitting in a tree ...

A few moments ago, I was mining a 1977 interview with Stockhausen for quotes and insights to include in a horrible paper I'm writing on Mantra that is already late because I am allergic to writing it. Anyway, I tweeted:

Hahaha, right? then, OH HOLY SHIT, this on the last page of the interview:
The spirit of [my latest work Sirius] is that it is music from Sirius, which is transposed on this planet and [reveals] the possibilities of this planet, because I think that the culture of this planet has been mainly formed by visitors from Sirius, especially in the time between 9000 and 6000 B.C., [as have] most of our modern concepts of cultural achievements, as far as these are still available, because, as you know, an enormous amount has been burned in the library of Alexandria, where all the secret knowledge of architecture, of mathematics, of astronomy and of the arts, and of the magnetism of the earth, of ecology, etc., has been destroyed voluntarily by the Christian orthodox administration. But I think that our main sources of present-day culture, as decadent as it may be in most parts of the planet, stem from visitors from Sirius whose main representatives (leaders) were Isis and Osiris. Through a series of revelations which were at first quite nebulous, but have become more clear during the past few years, I know (as little as I know about details) that I have come from Sirius, myself. And I know that the highest kind of language that can exist for this highly developed culture is music. As long as we're inclinated toward the bodies and possibilities of the body of this planet Earth, then everything from Sirius appears as music. It is structured in a direct harmony with the forming principles of the universe, of the rotations, of the seasons, of different aspects of youth, man, woman, the friend, of the elements earth, fire, water, air, of states of growth, etc. All of these characteristics stem basically, and have been made conscious, from this culture, and there are many other planets which have been influenced by these universal principles, which are communicated best through sound in music that is the best and most universal way.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

From the Vault episode 1

I keep finding things in my filing cabinet that I feel are worth posting for their sentimental value. Today I present: In 1994, as you can see from this meticulously designed poster, legendary jazz musician Don Burrows participated in a residency at my high school. Of course, the school went completely nuts over it. Don Burrows this, Don Burrows that, you must all learn to behave like angels because Don Burrows is coming, Don Burrows deserves the utmost reverence so be prepared to genuflect at all times -- and there were these "DON BURROWS: THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC" posters all over the school. There is a curiously Australian quirk: for every hype, there is an equal and opposite anti-hype. It's at least partly related to tall poppy syndrome. Anyway, because I was sick of the hype, as a bit of a lark, I took one of the posters and did the above to it, photocopied it (I only had a purple pen), and posted it back on the noticeboard from whence it came. Silly me. Somehow the administration found out it was me, and I got in enormous trouble. Called to the principal's office and made to repent. I think I had to give some kind of formal apology. I still think it was funny. Don Burrows, incidentally, turned out to be a really awesome dude, hilariously irreverent, good-natured, and of course, a musical god.