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

Sometimes I find inspiration when I least expect it. But when it appears, it's important not to ignore it and to simply hang on for the ride. 

Last week I found myself in the Kingstowne neighborhood of Alexandria, dropping off a housewarming gift for a client who just purchased her first home. Afterwards, I felt the invisible but very real draw of the nearby Home Goods. I was passing it on the way home, so what's the harm in just stopping by? Over the years I've stumbled upon some great finds at this particular location, so I I decided to make a quick pit stop on the way home, you know, to see what I'd see.

What was intended to be a quick perusal through the store, perhaps finding something for the new house or as a staging item I could use in one of my listings, instead led to the discovery of the catalyst to an unexpected whole room redo. 

When exploring the rug selection, I noticed the edge of the pictured gray and cream geometric rug peeking out from behind the hanging row of rugs. Upon exposing it, I was instantly smitten and wracked my brain to think where I might be able to use it. My inner dialog went as follows:

"Dining room at the new house? Nope, already have a rug for that room picked out. Hrm...what about the guest room? Nah, too big. Do I have any friends who are looking? Can't think of anyone."

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Comments 20

Q: How do you know you've neglected your yard for way too long?

A: When the weeds are taller than you are.

The last seven months at the new house have been largely devoted to getting the house back up and running following the whole house catastrophe last winter. We've been spending roughly 85% of our time ripping out the old copper plumbing, demolishing the old baseboard radiators, and coordinating the insurance and contractor process. The remaining 15% has consisted of trying to distract myself and stay positive by working on design plans for the house, combined with the renovation of the living room. I think it's fair to say that this has been 100% of effort we absolutely didn't expect during our first year of ownership.

We're accustomed to city living in so many ways, but one of the most noticeable is our lack of experience with gardening. To go from a 15' wide bricked courtyard with a few plants to over an acre of lawn, hedges, gardens, and more has been a huge change. 

But while we want the yard to be beautiful, our time and attention has been focused on interior projects. We hired a lawn service to keep the yard cut (and hopefully the snakes out!), but aside from the occasional weeding, trimming, and watering, we haven't done much else.

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Comments 13
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