When it comes to celebrating Halloween, Old Town Alexandria is a special place to be!

Our historic streets are not only steeped in the history of several centuries gone by, but are also dripping with spooky stories and ghostly tales. What's even better is just how much the homes and neighbors of Old Town really, and I mean really, embrace the season with spine-tingling halloween displays. 

This week, in an effort to either entice you to visit Old Town this Halloween, to give you a few tips on how to best enjoy Halloween in our neighborhood if you'll be in Alexandria, or to inspire you to create your own spooky decor, I want to share a little of what makes Old Town so spectacular when it comes to my favorite holiday. 

Ghost Stories/Tours

Ask anyone who has lives in Old Town if they know of any ghost stories and you'll likely be treated to a few tales that might skin crawling. Throughout the years on our blog we've shared a few hair raising experiences in our home and our neighbors. In addition to these tales we've heard countless others involving everything from ghostly spinning wheels that make eerie noises well after they've been removed from the house, to spirits upset that their left artifacts have been removed from their secret hiding places and begin causing havoc.

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Comments 2

Just wanted to give you all a quick update on some major happenings in our new home. 

A few weeks ago we told you about our heated debate involving just how we'd ultimately refinish our new home's nearly 110 year old antique heart pine floors. We didn't want to go the old stain and poly route and we were assessing at all of our various options to achieve the look we wanted. 

If there's one thing you might know about us, it's our mutual understanding that this isn't a matter to be taken lightly. (We take our antique floors perhaps a bit too seriously.) What we do now will set the tone for our home for many years to come. What's more, what we do now will have a lasting impact on these beautiful floors, so we'd better make the right choices now for the sake of the floor's future. 

Well, after going over all of our various options and doing a ton of research, our wheels were spinning a little bit. We knew the direction we wanted to head, but we were discovering it was difficult to find a contractor that was familiar with and wanted to work with some of the newer approaches to refinishing. In steps fate.

While spending a bunch of time on Instagram I stumbled across the account of wood floor refinishing company called Royal Oaks Flooring that is working down the street from us on a beautiful old home in Old Town. As I looked at some of their other photos I saw several newer techniques in use that we had been researching, including a photo that looked a lot like what Wendy wants our floors to be one day. 

As a result I sent them a message to see if they'd be interested in working with us on our home. A few days later I met Roland at our house to give him a tour and show him what we were interested in doing. Can I tell you, I wanted to work with him almost as soon as I met him.

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Comments 17

A few weeks ago Wendy and I took a week long trip that I've been wanting to take for 16 years.

You see, 16 years ago, when we were fresh faced college kids, Wendy had the amazing opportunity to study abroad for the summer as part of her degree in international business and marketing. Throughout her time living in London and traveling almost weekly to other European countries, I had the unique experience of learning of the places I'd never seen in person through a recounting of her adventures. That summer I had landed a great opportunity in a tech internship that I was very grateful to have, but it also meant I was stuck at a desk while Wendy was enjoying an experience that was more of a "once in a lifetime" type of adventure, rather than my "what will probably be the rest of your lifetime" summer.

I can still remember calculating the time change, determining when Wendy would be able to chat with me before she went to bed, and trying to make sure I got home in time for her planned call in order to hear what she'd experienced the past few days. I was living vicariously and hoping I'd some day have the opportunity to experience these places that sounded so great.

One of the descriptions I remember most vividly from Wendy's study abroad excursions was the summary of her whirlwind Paddywagon tour of Ireland. 

After 16 years, frequent mentions of sheep and just how green all of Ireland actually is, and seeing the country out of the window of a plane on several other trips over the pond, we finally had the opportunity to experience Ireland together. I'll tell you one thing for sure, it didn't disappoint. Here's a quick recap of our journey and a few highlights.

We started our trip jet lagged in Dublin, but knew we didn't have any time to lose. We'd coordinated to meet up with a friend of ours, Katharine, who lives in London. Katharine, the same friend we'd met up with in London when we were there for the 2012 Summer Olympics, made the relatively short trip from London to Dublin to show us around for the day. Her timing was impeccable as she met us in the lobby of our hotel as we were checking in. This was perfect as it meant we'd be able to hit the ground running and power through any desire for a nap.

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Comments 15

Sometimes a tried and true building method beats the modern approach. When talking about old houses, I often feel this way about plaster vs. drywall.

Our good friends and blog readers, Doug and Gretchen, are fellow old home owners. After a lengthy search for their first place, they purchased a home in the H Street Northeast neighborhood of Washington, DC. Though many of the homes in that area have been completely gutted and renovated, when they were searching they held out until they were able to find a turn of the 20th century home with the majority of the architectural elements intact. But as with many homes that have not had a major renovation and are approaching or exceeding 100 years old, their house has had plenty of items on the "To Do" list.

Though Doug and Gretchen's home is similar to a Wardman style of home from the early 1900s, which is very prevalent in the H Street Northeast part of DC...

...their design style is more contemporary and modern than their house's age would let on. That being said, they appreciate the history and quality of the elements that make an old house a home. Unlike many with similar tastes, they aren't eager to rip out all of the old items to make way for the large "open concept living" that has swept the country in recent years. Instead, they are attempting to preserve and protect the original features of the home while incorporating their more modern aesthetic tastes through decor and color choices. As far as I'm concerned, this is how most should treat an old home, even if their goals aren't for period accurate restoration and decor.

When Doug and Gretchen first had us over to take a look at their place, one of the first things I noticed was their guest bedroom ceiling. It was wavy, cracking, sagging, and seemed to make the whole room feel off balance and wonky. Their ceiling was obviously not the smooth and pristine ceiling that most likely adorned the house when it was built, but a ceiling that had been patched repeatedly after water damage or whatever else may have occurred. But it was still plaster, which hadn't been ripped out in favor of a drywall replacement.

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Comments 2

We've been having a few heated debates in our home, and one of them involves something that looks a little bit too orange and yellow. Thankfully, I'm not talking about Donald Trump's skin and hair.

Our debates are not of the GOP variety, but rather about our various options for refinishing our antique pine floors. We've been looking at our various options for breathing a little life into these beautiful floors pretty much since we bought the house almost exactly a year ago. But the actual job of refinishing the floors has had to wait due in equal parts to the HVAC/plumbing disaster back in February, and to our inability to make a final decision.

The floors in our new house are beautiful antique flat sawn random width clear pine. They appear to be a mixture of heart and southern yellow pine, and almost all of it, save for a few areas of repair patches, are original to the home.

While we both quickly agreed that we didn't want to do the good old stain and poly refinish route, given that our floors in Old Town have a much more formal look than we're going for and have really started to show their age as the poly has flaked and fractured in places, just what route we wanted to go is still up in the air.

In debate number one back in June, we shared some of our original thoughts on using the very historically traditional floor finish of Waterlox (100 year old recipe of ting oil and resin). Though the tung oil finish is historically appropriate for our 107 year old floors, the sample boards we applied it to showed us just how yellow and orange the floors would likely look. (And many of you echoed our fears in the comments.)

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Comments 7
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