As our vestibule renovation project drags on into its ninth month, I feel my mood souring a bit. What we once deemed a "quick project" has, in true Old Town Home fashion, morphed into an overhaul that has cost more, taken longer, and brought with it more frustration than originally intended. 

Maybe it's the catalyst for the project that makes me feel a little blue. After all, we began this project because our puppy Oliver was dying of cancer. In April of last year he was diagnosed with Lymphoma at only a year and a half old. By October we knew we would have too few days to spend with our beloved little companion, so we opted to begin this project in the middle of a major master bathroom renovation. We did this because Oliver was a "first floor only" dog, and given that he would gladly spend most of his time resting peacefully on the couch when he knew we were downstairs with him, we wanted to be close to him and not holed up in our bathroom. 

Our goal, albeit a lofty one, was to complete this project so that he could sit in the vestibule looking out the new french doors, admiring four-legged lady friends pass by. Sort of like this.

We didn't know how much time we would have with him, but we had hoped it would be more than less. Sadly, Ollie lost his battle to cancer just two weeks after we started working on the vestibule, so he never had a chance to enjoy the space. Not only did we lose our best friend and crew member, but with his death we lost some of our project mojo. 

Motivation was slow going into the winter, but we've made a conscious effort to get recharged on this project. Unfortunately it seems the reno gods have other ideas. We soon came across a few unexpected turns.

(I'm So) Over the Threshold

After selecting and installing the marble basket weave tile in the vestibule, we realized that finding a matching black marble or granite threshold wasn't quite as easy. After numerous calls to local granite and stone companies, we finally found a local shop that would custom make one for us. More time than expected? Check. More money than expected? Check.

Not Measuring Up

We made the unfortunate discovery that both the new front door and new french doors were, in fact, mislabeled at the salvage yard. And not in the good way. All three doors will need to be built up to fit the space. More time than expected? Check. More frustrating than expected? Check.

Disappearing Act

After months of searching for an antique mail slot for the new front door, we finally found one online that fit the bill, and our budget. When Alex went to order it though, it seems the small mom and pop operation had forgotten to update their website when they had sold it. More frustrating...well you get the idea.

Two-Faced Liar

Lastly, after scouring our local salvage yard in 100 degree heat for another door (to cut up to use as old wood to build up the three doors we have), and relying on the kindness of a friend and his truck, we made the unfortunate discovery that the door we had purchased was the actual two faced liar. Yep, it wasn't solid wood at all, but in fact veneer and smaller pieces of wood glued together. (Insert expletive here.) 

Do-it-yourself renovating is rarely as easy as they make it look on television, and I'm officially cranky. In order to try to adjust my mood a bit while my dear, patient husband is left to deal with the door "growth" issues, I've turned my attention to an aspect of any job that puts a smile on my face: paint color selection. I'd like to think I'm going from feeling blue to painting blue. 

Although I love the shiny jet black color currently on our front door (and plan to paint the outer french doors the same way), I'm feeling a little daring for the inner front door. I know I want to make a pretty bold statement, and mentally had it narrowed down to a bright celadon green or aqua/turquoise blue. After Alex cast his vote, we've opted to go in the blue direction to infuse a little bit of whimsical curb appeal to our home. We actually used some photos from our 2006 trip to London as inspiration for this decision.

After picking up hundreds of shades of aqua paint chips at our local paint store, as well as consulting my mom for her best color advice, I'm considering two shades from Benjamin Moore: Majestic Blue (middle) and Florida Keys Blue (at right). Last night, on a scrap piece of wood in the basement, I made a sample board so I can take a larger swatch out into the sun, and really look at the colors from the street. I also threw in a test of the paint we rejected years ago as the color of our guest bathroom (pictured at left) since we already had a quart of it in the basement. 

As of right now, the jury is still out on the color, but I'm leaning towards Florida Keys Blue. What do you think?

I guess in renovation or in life, unexpected (and sometimes unpleasant) circumstances can pop up at any given time. But the key is to do your best, be persistent, and muster on. This project has had more than it's fair share of heartbreak and frustration, but even so I look forward to the day I can come home to my new, bright and happy entryway and smile. And who knows. Maybe Lulu or Mel will be sitting there waiting for me and sunning themselves, enjoying the space their brother would have loved to have lounged in.

I know my renovation heartbreak and frustration isn't one experienced by me alone. If you're in the midst of a project you'd prefer would just cooperate with you, or if you've ever wanted to throw your whole house in the trash to just be done with it, I'd love to hear about it. I know it will make me feel a little bit better, and it may make you feel better too. Hopefully this post and a little bit of paint color will also go a long way to helping my own state of mind.

Comments 9


7/20/2011 at 12:59 PM
First - I am so, so sorry for the loss of your Ollie. My passion for old houses comes second to my passion for dogs, and the thought of loosing my crazy girl so young (she's not two yet) is excruciating.

Second - I've been planning our bathroom renovation for 3 months now, and we haven't done or bought a single thing. This is our first home. I know that this isn't your guys' first reno/restore project...did you find that the first one dragged infinitely longer as you learned as you went?
Thanks so much Ashley. I'm with you - four legged friends and old homes are at the top of my "life's passion" list.

Congratulations on your first home! We've found over the years that pretty much each and every project takes longer than anticipated, but we have learned tips and techniques that have helped us save time. Alex, for example, is way speedier at plastering and paint stripping now than when we first attempted it back in 2003.

I'm not gonna lie though - bathrooms can be tricky, especially if you're in an old home full of "surprises." Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
7/20/2011 at 2:01 PM
I'm with you on absolutely everything you said. There is nothing straight-forward or normal about old house renovation, and only another old house renovator can truly understand the level of frustration that these old beauties can generate. One day I will have to tell you the story of the ceiling of our grandson's bedroom, or how our kitchen remodel is now entering its 5th year ... I've got a million of 'em. Every project is filled with unexpected decisions and expenses and delays. It's just part of the process.

Your marble floor looks beautiful!

(I'm really sorry about Oliver.)
7/20/2011 at 2:04 PM
I forgot to chime in on the door color, since you asked. Based on your photo, I like the Florida Keys color. It has a lot of life in it.
Thanks for sharing Connie! Five year kitchen reno? You must have the patience of a saint. I suppose we suffer through these challenges because it's worth it in the end. (Or that's what I tell myself anyway.) :-)

Thanks too for the compliment, the condolences, and for your paint vote too.
7/20/2011 at 7:40 PM
Your dog and cat are beautiful, and so was Ollie! We have 3 pugs and 3 cats -- and an old house -- but we've had longer to build our "family" than you. In fact we've lived in this house 24 years and with renovating 4 other houses and having rental property for many years, we do get maxed out on renovation. Because we've always had a functional main bath, we were able to spend years converting an old bath into a half bath and closets as well as build a whole new bath out of a walk-in closet.

Sadly, the kitchen, which was extremely funky (modernized maybe in the early 50s but not in a cool, retro way) when we moved in, now remains the same except for 24 more years of wear and tear, although most appliances have been replaced.

In our defense, we have completed many major projects and almost total landscaping of our yard. It's about 1 1/2 acres with woods taking up a lot of space but major improvements to plantings and the addition of a pond, stream, much hardscaping, as well as building a two story "playhouse" (for adults) and renovating other outbuildings.

You all have done a LOT of beautiful work and a great job of documenting it in this blog; please don't be too hard on yourselves when you need to step back and take a break!
Wow, you've been busy! I don't know how you've been able to maintain the stamina to get you through multiple renovations. My hat's off to you!

Thanks for the words of encouragement, especially coming from someone who (has and) is living it! :-)

And aren't pugs just the best?!
7/21/2011 at 9:02 AM
So sorry about the loss of Oliver - we are "dog people" and they are really members of the family.

While we've had our share of DIY projects over the years, this is the first house we've needed to renovate. We moved in in Feb., and 5 months later we are still struggling to finish the master. Yeah, everything takes longer than we thought, plus I haven't helped as much as I thought I'd be able to...that leaves my hubby to work on it nights and weekends.

I thought it was just taking forever for us, but it's nice to read that others are in the same boat. :)
7/24/2011 at 1:10 PM
As another dog lover who reads your blog, your story about Oliver made me tear up. My sister’s Weimaraner passed away from cancer last year shortly after the diagnosis. The loss was devastating and I feel your pain and know how it goes, even after all these months.

And on a happy note, I vote for Florida Keys Blue! Maybe it’s because I need a trip to the beach, but I love that color.
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