Around this time of year back in 2003, the year we bought our home, the birds chirping and the warmer temperatures signaled the start of warm weather and outdoor living. After a long winter we, as fresh faced newlyweds, excitedly greeted the change in seasons with talks of how we wanted to spruce up our back yard and transform it into a space in which we could relax, dine, and entertain. We launched into a mini upgrade/overhaul that saw the removal of overgrowth, addition of a pond, and a general sprucing that was long overdue. The yard we had when we moved into our home was a far cry from "nice."

A crucial decision and investment at the time was centered around the type of outdoor furniture we would purchase. We scoured stores, ads, and online, before finally deciding on a teak set -- a table, four chairs, and a bench -- from our neighborhood Crate and Barrel outlet that's just a few blocks walk from our place. Short on cash but full of new homeowner excitement and motivation, we scrimped together the greenbacks and wedding gift cards needed to make the purchase. How tight were we on cash? The table didn't fit in our car, and this was before car sharing options, so we went so far as to carry the entire set home the eight or so blocks in order to avoid paying shipping charges. That, was a long walk home.

Just look at my young face and the signature ill fitting clothing of the early 2000s.

While we've greatly enjoyed this set over the years, we found ourselves swearing at our decision year after year, as the maintenance of the wood was truly...high maintenance. However, we justified its worth as it gave us wonderful neighborhood settings like this scene.

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Comments 23

There are times in any relationship when your partnership is tested. In this day and age of technology and constantly connected communications, partners are able to stay informed and aware of the other's mood, status, and progress, even when significantly detached from the situation or event. It's a blessing and a curse that previous generations didn't need to be bothered by. But what would possibly lead to the following question and answer text exchange over the weekend? The root of the scenario may surprise you.

One would think, given our 11 plus years of frequenting the various aisles of the several area big box stores, that we've accumulated an aptitude for their layout and function that places us beyond the intimidation litmus of their ways. From plumbing to hardware, tools to lumber, we've been there, done that, and have been back again. We've even gotten to a point where we can walk into a store we're not familiar with and navigate their labyrinth of aisles, end caps, and cut throughs in an efficient, calm, and collected manner.

One would think this is all very true, and we are beyond basic intimidation or frustration when we are within the walls of the big boxes, but one would be incorrect if this assumption was granted to the store as a whole.

Nay, there is still one section of almost any store that takes the normal sanity of a shopping experience and somehow transforms it into something more fitting of a padded room and straight jacket. I'm referring to the large fenced-in outdoor garden centers tagged onto the side of the stores like a grotesque boil on the face of a model. 

This weekend marked our annual obligatory gardening center adventure. The one weekend a year where we must face our fears and tackle the intimidation headlong. The goal is simple, pick out a few essential gardening supplies, a handful of plants and herbs, a couple of bags of mulch and dirt, and bring it all home in one piece. Simple enough? Yeah, it always sounds so "simple enough."

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Comments 23

Last week Wendy and I took a nice little vacation in celebration of Wendy's birthday, and boy did we have an absolutely wonderful time!

In what has apparently become an annual adventure for the two of us, we depart the comfy confines of Old Town and head to one of our dream destinations in search of a little rest and relaxation to mask the fact that we've (or more specifically, Wendy has) somehow grown a year older much too quickly. And though it might not be some sort of youthful potion or magic elixir, we've discovered that copious amounts of sun, food, and wine, tend to do just the trick in obscuring our focus from our aging vessels. Instead, we fixate on the wonderful time were having, placing our concerns more in the realm of fun and enjoyment. I like to think it keeps us young.

If you follow us on Instagram you likely saw some of our hijinks as we spent several days in Northern, California.

We started our journey in one of our favorite places on the planet, Carmel-by-the-Sea on the Monterey Peninsula. This was actually Wendy's fourth time to Carmel, and my fifth (counting a 1st grade trip with my parents some 30 years ago during Clint Eastwood's mayoral term in the city). The thing that's interesting about Carmel is that each time we return, we find it just a little bit harder to leave.

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Comments 4

Now that we've been at this whole DIY renovation game for quite some time, there tends to be less and less that intimidates us. Early on I remember the fear I felt when turning a circuit breaker back on after simply swapping a single duplex outlet. Today I feel like I can pretty much do that in my sleep, no concern that our entire house will burst into a ball of flames from some errantly placed wires.

Experience, and as I said last week, perspective, have helped to build a solid foundation that typically results in far less concern for failure, and far more attention to doing the job well. However, at certain times in a project when tackling something truly new, that creeping feeling of self-doubt brought by the Doubt Gnome inevitably shows his ugly face and tries to undercut our overall progress with words of de-motivational catastrophe.

The Doubt Gnome spends the majority of his time on the toilet.

Our vanity work has been progressing nicely, and though the work I've been doing to sure up the piece's stability was "new" work, it was still a collection of woodworking techniques with which I was comfortable. But as I completed this work, the little Doubt Gnome began to creep into the picture, dropping nuggets like, "You know, if you're painting this piece and it turns out streaky, all of your effort will be for naught and it will ruin the whole thing. The last person I know who failed at this task is now living in that piece of streakily painted furniture somewhere under a bridge, too embarrassed to even show their face. Have a nice day!" 

The Doubt Gnome is actually a real jerk and provides untrue anecdotes to support his fear mongering, then tends to end his depressing words with an upbeat closing. I really hate that guy.

The Gnome was preying on my inexperience when it comes to paint sprayers. He knew that I had never used one, that I barely had a clue how they worked, and that I've had a High Velocity/Low Pressure (HVLP) sprayer sitting in our basement for over a year, received as a Christmas gift for this very task, a bit significantly prematurely. He also knew I was as intimidated as I could be and I didn't want to ruin the vanity we'd worked so hard on. At the same time, I didn't want to somehow screw up and ruin the paint gun. I didn't want to waste the paint and primer that has gotten exponentially expensive over the years. And I had an overwhelming fear that the spray gun was going to somehow end up like a giant out of control snake, wildly whipping around the room, knocking me unconscious, proceeding to cover the entire bathroom with streaks of paint while I lay motionless on the floor. Hey, it could happen, right?

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Comments 5

Recently I went over the approach we decided to take to add to the structure of our buffet-turned-bathroom-vanity to ensure its ability to support a marble top without cracking. If there's one thing I'm known for in both my professional and hobbyist life, it's knowing how to solidly over engineer a project. I'm hopeful that my solution soundly fits into this category, otherwise we could have some cracked marble on our hands.

With the upper portion of the vanity work complete, I turned my focus to the lower section. I had four primary goals remaining before we could call the vanity carcass "ready for paint." I'd need to:

We've always known we'd be altering the height and skirt boards of the cabinet, but weren't sure how. We'd planned on cutting some off of the bottom and also removing the fancy decorative element in the middle, but I wasn't sure if we'd do it in place or some other way. When I disassembled the bottom (photo above) and was able to remove the skirt boards, I was elated at the fact I could then make the alterations on the table saw. It's so much easier.

The first thing I did was to remove about 1/4" of material from the tops. This was a little difficult due to the legs and needing to alter my saws fence setup. I couldn't just set the table saw on 1/4" as this would have likely caused some pretty significant kickback of the small spear-like material, possibly injuring me, or at least freaking my bean enough to make me think better of it. I ended up using a length of 1-1/2" poplar as a guide fence and slowly ran the whole thing through the saw, ripping it to size.

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