Slow but Steady

The White House

Holy moly! How is it possible that my last blog post about the White House was in August?!? That seems like a lifetime ago. You might think that Kurt has been lounging around, watching television, and eating potato chips… but you’d be mistaken. He has been working steadily, even if I’ve been tardy about documenting it. And luckily, he also took a few pictures that I can share with you to show his progress.

In August, he put some structure and plumbing into the upstairs bathroom. Here is where we left off (with a big hole in the floor). Since then, he built a large walk-in shower area, closed off the door to the storage room, and moved the vanity plumbing to the back wall, next to the toilet.  He also installed a bath fan that vented through the attic to the outside.

I think it looks so much better with clean, white sheet rock walls instead of pink plastic faux-tiles. Don’t you agree?

He spent most of October and November patching up cracks in the walls, repairing baseboards, and scraping flaky paint off the trim, to prepare for a fresh coat of paint (coming soon).

In the upstairs front bedroom closet, he removed the cracked ceiling and discovered a colony of bats living in the rafters! After watching them all exit through a 1″ hole in the roof flashing at sunset one evening, he sealed the hole from the outside before installing new insulation and sheet rock in the closet. Now it’s nice and cozy, and 100% bat-free!

In early December, Kurt repaired the stair treads in the front entry. When he took them apart, he was hoping to find some buried treasures in the dead space under the stairs, but unfortunately, the only stuff in there was debris from the original construction.

Stair Treads

He tore through the pantry wall to adjust the huge sliding door that opens off of the dining room. When we bought the house, it opened slanted and only about 90% of the way, but that wasn’t good enough for Kurt’s high standards. Now it slides the whole way with ease (or at least as easy as a 200-pound antique door can slide). In the coming weeks, we will take off the handle hardware, clean off the layers of paint, and restore its original function and style.

Sliding Door

In the week between Christmas and New Years, he headed back to work, this time building shelves in the pantry and next to the basement stairs. He also installed a new door on the pantry and a refurbished antique door to the basement.

In the first week of the new year, he added the vintage trim and rosettes to the doors and window in the kitchen. Now they match the rest of the house! We also found matching hinges and door knobs, which will go into the kitchen and bathrooms soon.  (Thanks to Guilded Salvage Antiques in Minneapolis for all the new/old materials that are helping us make the White House perfect!)

Doors and Trim in Kitchen

We have ordered new flooring for the kitchen, but he won’t install it just yet. The rest of the house will have the hardwood floors refinished in the next couple of months.

Still to do… repaint everything inside (probably grayish walls with white trim); pick out tile for the new walk-in shower upstairs; choose flooring for both bathrooms; new counter tops and appliances for the kitchen… I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t remember right now.

Stay tuned.


A Busy Week in Claremont

The White House

Kurt has been making slow-but-steady progress on the White House during this last week.

He finished cleaning all of the windows, inside and out, which took about an hour a piece because they were so incredibly disgusting. He had to scrape a ton of sloppy brown caulking off of the vinyl frames too. He also replaced the old, holey silver screens with less-noticeable black ones. The before and afters are awesome! Check out the upstairs bedroom windows.

Before After Window Washing

Since the front door is now officially Celestial Blue, we decided it was time to reinstall the 1940s Nutone door bell. (Even though the house is a 1910, I just couldn’t part with the adorable “DING-DONG” created by this vintage piece.) I also created new label for the window. I believe originally it said “Turn Handle” but I found that explanation to be incomplete, so after a trial-run using my laptop screen, I printed our new label out on paper (in matching blue letters, of course).

Kurt installed a brand new door on the back porch. Unlike the last one, this one opens and closes without rubbing on the porch floor in the process! He also changed from a left-hand opening door to a right-hand one. The location of the railing, the inside light switch and the adjacent kitchen door all made more sense with a right-hand swing. (He needs to put a little bit of metal trim around the outside before it’s officially finished, but it looks so much nicer than the old one, I just had to share.)

Over the last two days, Kurt and I have been working together to install a new garage door opener, with a nifty outdoor keypad entry and a motion-sensing reverse system.

And this afternoon, he finally reinstalled the newly painted (outer) basement windows. Now the inside and outside windows in the basement are sealed up and ready for anything Mother Nature can dish out. (And I’m still loving that dark gray paint!)

Earlier this week, the girls came over to help scrape wall paper off in the living room. I gave each of them a set of tiny work gloves (pink and green with a picture of Dora the Explorer on them!) and a Sharpie and had them write their alphabet and their names on the wall.

When they were all finished, they got to pull all their letters off the wall and throw them in the garbage! A wonderful way to get an hour of productivity from a 3.25- and 4.5-year-old.  Of course, I had to go by later and remove the upper six feet of paper, as well as the sticky layer, but it was still a lot of fun to have them participate. Here’s how the living room wall looked before, during, and after.

By the way, in case you’ve been laying awake wondering, you know that sticky yellow paper that you have to spray with water in order to get it off the walls? Well, if you let it sit (wet) too long in the garbage bag where it can’t dry out, it starts to mold. But here’s today’s fun fact… when it molds, it smells exactly like BRIE CHEESE! I’m not even kidding. It was the weirdest thing!

Smelly Cheese Garbage

Anyway, back to this week’s recap. When the girls weren’t helping inside, they were having a great time with their new-to-us playground set. The best part is that it fits (fully assembled minus the two red slides) in the back of Kurt’s pickup truck, so when we need to move it home or to the Berg, it’s super portable!

Next week, Kurt gets to move inside the house, to make big progress on the upstairs bathroom and the new walk-in closet.

Stay tuned.

A First Look Inside

The Berg

The Berg officially became ours last Thursday, so we took our girls over to get their first look inside.

Upon walking in the east side door which leads into the kitchen, I asked Maggie (age 3 1/4) what she thought. Her first words were “this house smells bad” followed almost immediately by “hey, this is the kitchen!” She was not wrong. (Just like the White House, our first job will be to open the windows and remove the very old, very dirty, very smelly carpet.)

I’ve sketched out the layout of the house, to give you some basic bearings. (Obviously not to scale, but close enough for now.)

Berg Floorplan

While the rest of the family was exploring the empty house, I snapped several million ‘before’ pictures. Here are a few to give you a sense of the house (without subjecting you to the scents of the house.)

There is so much more floral wallpaper than I remembered! The upstairs isn’t any better.

The basement is a bit of an eye-sore: crumbling walls, knob-and-tube wiring, old pipes. Kurt (and a handful of professionals) will have a lot of work to do down there before we’re through with this transformation.

Outside, the yard is large and full of nice plantings. And the garage has a ton of character, with different bricks from a century of repairs and renovations.

But let’s end this quick tour with a little natural beauty… Mr. and Mrs. Berg were avid gardeners and even though they have passed, their flower gardens are still lovely.

I can’t wait to get into there and take out that nasty carpet. The transformation begins this week!

Stay tuned.

Introducing “The Berg” in Rochester, MN

The Berg

Kurt and I are so excited! Today we bought our second project house!

It was previously owned (for the last 65 years) by an elderly couple named Mr. and Mrs. Berg, so we decided to call it “The Berg.” I also like the name because we just bought a 140 year-old house “AS-IS.” I’m sure that the problems we *know* about are just ‘the tip of the ice-BERG.’

Here are the stats… 2 bedroom, two 3/4 baths, 1,869 square feet. Built in 1880. Corner lot with large yard and an ancient carriage-house garage.

It was described on as “Fixer upper in great location! Charming old home that needs a loving touch.” Oh boy, here we go!

We got the keys this morning, so I haven’t had a chance to take pictures yet. But here’s what I borrowed from the listing (

View The Berg’s transformation (in chronological order) by visiting the Archives page.




Dining Room


Living Room


Sitting Room




Stay tuned.

Carpet Out, Hello Wood Floors

The White House

May 15th ~ The very first thing we did when we started working in the White House was to remove the nasty old carpet. With our girls at an all-day sitter, Kurt and I had a chance to make a big visual difference in a short amount of time. (It also made a difference in how the house smelled!)

On the first floor, the living room, dining room, entry, staircase,  bedroom, and enclosed front porch all needed to be torn out. Here’s what it looked like BEFORE.

On the second floor, the front bedroom with closet, hallway, and back bedroom with closet also had carpet that needed to come out.

While Kurt (a former carpet installer) did a speedy job of ripping out, sectioning, and rolling up the icky stuff, I carried the pieces downstairs to the van destined for the dump. Somehow, we managed to get all of the carpet and the padding in one load.

Here’s what it looked like AFTER.

Underneath the carpet, we found hardwood floors covered in ancient glue, except in the dining room and downstairs bedroom where we found linoleum tile. A few days later, Kurt took up the tile and then spent several hours scraping the glue up. Here’s the final result in the dining room.


In a few weeks (or months), we will get a specialist out to sand and refinish all of the wood floors to their original awesomeness. I can’t wait to see them then!

Introducing “The White House” in Claremont, MN

The White House

In mid-May, my husband Kurt and I purchased a charming old home in the tiny hamlet of Claremont, Minnesota. It was built in 1910. Kurt knew this house had ‘good bones’ and just needed a little TLC.

The first thing we do when we start a new project is to name it. We considered calling it “the Tall House” or “the Owl House” but we decided to call it “The White House.” Our family has been politically divided since last November, so I was hoping this house could once again connect a positive feeling to the term.

Here are the stats… 3 bedroom, 3/4 bath upstairs, half bath downstairs, 1750 square feet. Located on a double lot with several mature trees. It also has a modern garage which includes a nice (unfinished) loft and a small garden shed.

The next several posts will be trying to bring you up to date on the improvements we made during our first five weeks. But once I’ve caught up, I’ll post updates when we’ve finished a portion of the project.

And here’s what it looked like when we started. (Photos borrowed from It was a foreclosure and the previous owner left a lot of stuff behind (except kitchen appliances). Thankfully it was mostly cleared out before we got the keys.




Garden Shed


Dining Room




Living Room

Stay tuned.