Before we unplug

We're down to furniture (movers tomorrow!) and stuff that doesn't fit in boxes. Day one of the move is over. Also over is our decade plus real estate partnership with Phyllis Bell.

While she was our representative in the sale of the condo, she represented her inlaws in the sale of the house. Brett and I were unrepresented in that transaction. As such her presence at closing was not required, but she came anyway.

One might assume that she came because after buying and selling six properties over twelve years there would be some goodwill there, but one would be wrong. She came to sit silently through the paperwork and then walk to the parking lot with Brett, where she proceeded to lose her shit.

We were accused of parading contractors through the house without authorization (there was one, which she herself suggested we call, for foundation work that the lender required to be completed before closing), and told that the sellers (her husband and his siblings) were FURIOUS with her. She said that we absolutely could NOT enter the house before the wire was received, and ended by telling Brett he was HORRIBLE.

I would laugh at the ridiculousness of it all if I didn't know how deeply she hurt Brett's feelings. When we made our offer she described her brother-in-law as an ass, so her dismay over their anger (which I don't believe actually exists) rings hollow.

What she's really mad about is a remark made in a moment of serious panic that she construed as questioning her ethics. Rather than dealing with that issue directly she chose to disregard our long-time loyalty, become increasingly curt, and lower her boom on closing day.

So it wasn't the perfect first day as once-again homeowners, but we're in relatively good shape on getting all our stuff moved, and excited to erase the years of neglect and make the house our dream home.

I'm not sure when the internet gets installed, but I'll be back just as soon as we're able.

Moving day

It's here. And it's kind of amazing because not that long ago we'd pretty much decided it wasn't coming. I'm off work the rest of the week and will be shuttling SUVloads of all that stuff that doesn't go easily into boxes. Artwork, lamps, stuff.

I'm looking forward to my next dispatch...from the new Chez Malaise.

7 X 2

I was tagged by both Karena and Soodie as a Kreativ Blogger (thank you ladies!), and as such I am to reveal seven things about me that readers may not know. I'm also to pass on the award, but I'd just pass it right back to people who've already done it, so I'm concentrating the reveal part.

1. I have one tattoo, an asian dragon in blackwork on my outside left ankle. In and of itself that's no big deal, but the asian aspect is important. My grandfather was half Japanese, though you would never know it to look at me. He lived through the second world war with a last name that likely would have gotten him interned had he lived on either coast. He was also a wonderful man whos love I still feel today. My next tattoo will honor him specifically, and is his family crest, taken from a gold ring that belonged to his father.

2. I own a full and complete California Highway Patrolmans uniform, including an authentic (but retired) badge and knee-high Dehner patrol boots. If you have never gone out on Halloween in full uniform you should, I heartily recommend it.

3. While generally very forgiving, I am also capable of holding a grudge forever. Joyce Omer, for example.

4. I am not a gadget guy at all. I don't know how to program home electronics. I haven't set the presets on the stereo in the Rover. Everyone I knew had a cell phone before I did, and when I finally got one it was no-frills. All that said, I ADORE my iPhone. It may be the best invention ever.

5. So I love my iPhone, and I've had Mac computers in the past, but I absolutely hate the Cult of Mac. I've had to stop in the store before, and the phrase "Genius Bar" makes my entire body tense up.

6. You will never see me wearing red or yellow. Actually, I have a pair of red boxers, but if you see me in them we'll have things to talk about other than what colors I prefer to wear.

7. I simply don't get people who don't like dogs. Nor do I trust them, or generally want to be around them. Dating them is impossible, as I once learned. I fell in love with Brett's dog before I fell in love with Brett, and our love of dogs is one of the things that makes our relationship work.

Alright, there ya go!

Mr. & Mr. Clean

Apparently they had our new house cleaned after the estate sale and before it hit the market. If we hadn't been told that I would have guessed it was sometime during the Ford administration. We spent the day cleaning the kitchen, bathrooms and closets so that we're not totally creeped out putting our dishes or clothes away. And even after the spraying of cleaners and scrubbing of dirt and dust, we still put down a layer of drawer/shelf liner just so there's something somewhere thats clean and white. Happily the combination of Green Clean, Clorox Cleanup Bleach and Windex Spring Rain seems to be eliminating the old lady smell.

Tomorrow we continue the scrubbing and mopping, and moving more of our stuff to the garage. It's going to be a hellish week, but I'm already excited to get started. We have foundation work beginning Monday, and gutter replacement just as soon as we schedule it. As he does, Brett's vacillating between excitement and soul-crushing dread.

Mrs. B, is trash day on Thursday?

Dinner at Rachel's

Brett's law partner Rachel is a great cook, and we've enjoyed countless dinners (and insane amounts of wine) at this very table. It started out as a regular farmhouse-ish table in a medium pine finish, but healthy amounts of entertaining and life with a certain three year old had taken their toll. Rachel asked me about a fix.

Her kitchen cabinets are an off white, so I painted the base to match, including a brown overglaze. For the top I thought a rougher finish might have more mileage, so after a chemical strip I pulled out the power sander and got on it. Two coats of dark varnish were sealed and followed with a rubdown with a black glaze. A coat of polyacrylic finished both top and base.

Rachel took it home today and both she and her husband were happy with the look. I'm happy with the way it turned out, as well as how it looks with her black Windsor chairs. She's thinking about a new rug, and I think that would complete the update nicely.


I've continued to comb through plumbing websites hoping that something would speak to me, and finally something did. Simple and graceful like the Kohler pedestal, but different. Classically good looking without calling attention to itself, and the right size. The Lutezia pedestal by Porcher.

Pedestal sinks

Things are cruising along toward the move. It's a continuing roller coaster so there are more folks coming to give us more estimates on necessary repairs. One minute we feel fine, and the next we're sick to our stomachs, and I expect that's perfectly normal.

We've talked about doing the hollywood bath sooner rather than later because we think having one updated bath might make the work on the rest of the house less of a long, hard slog. You may remember I'm planning on a white carrera 3X6 tile for the walls and shower, and I'd planned on a matching 1X2 herringbone mosaic for the floor.

Then I remembered a mosaic tile floor we had in a past house, and how I hated scrubbing all that grout. So I've changed my mind and am now planning on China Black marble (black with white veining) for the floor. 12X12 would be a good scale with the wall tile, but if I find it in something larger I'll give it a look.

So my question for you is on sinks. I'd planned to use a pair of Kohler's Memoirs pedestals and a matching toilet. Yes, I know you see them all the time. But do you know why you see them used a lot? Because they're graceful and good looking, and I think they'd be perfect in a marble bath.

However, getting back in there with a measuring tape, I'm not entirely sure the smallest Memoirs pedestal will fit. More measuring to do before I know for sure.

My question for you now is, in a fairly traditional feeling bathroom, do you think this pedestal could work?

It's from Porcher, and just about the perfect size to nestle into the corners on either side of the window. I like the design on it's own, and I think it could work perfectly in a classic marble bath, but I have a slight worry that it would be too stark, but then I also think the classic tile and the sleek pedistals might be a nice mix. Opinions please!

Library builder

I blog about auctions, but generally only after they've taken place because, well, why encourage competition? But I'm making an exception today, partially because I'm broke until payday, and mostly because I think it's a rare opportunity a number of you might find interesting. Soodie, ArchitectDesign and Mrs. Blandings, I'm thinking especially of you. So here's what's up:

I've mentioned the quarerly Fine Arts & Antiques auction at KC Auction Co. here in town before. The next one is this Tuesday, the 13th, and looking at the catalog it's going to be a killer sale. But in particular, there is a collection of books any of you interested in architecture, garden design, or history should be aware of.

The JC Nichols company developed what many would argue are the best residential and commercial areas in Kansas City. The Country Club Plaza, Crestwood, Brookside, Fairway, as well as many of the neighborhoods along Ward Parkway. He called his method of development "planning for permanance," and if you ask a Kansas Citian today to name a desirable area to live, chances are they'll give you the name of an area originally developed by JC Nichols.

Nichols developments are known for varied and interesting architecture, mixed sizes of housing in close proximity, pocket parks, and extensive use of fountains and statuary. It's a formula that differentiates our neighborhoods from many.

So what does this have to do with the auction? The JC Nichols company is closing their Kansas City office and selling their library, and some of it looks very interesting. A sampling:

-Lot 1: 1921 English Homes 6 Volume Set
-Lot 2: 1936 Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania
-Lot 3: 1929 Old World Inspiration for American Architecture
-Lot 5: 1926 The National Terrazo and Mosaic Contractors' Association Catalog
-Lot 6: 1914 California Gardens
-Lot 7: 1925 Brickwork in Italy
-Lot 9: 1921 Country Residences in Europe and America
-Lot 10: 1929 Ecclesiastical Lighting Fixtures Catalog
-Lot 14: Cottages Farmhouses and Other Minor Buildings in England
-Lot 17: 1911 Distinctive Homes of Moderate Cost
-Lot 20: 1922 Sketches of Early American Architecture
-Lot 22: Architectural Details From the Classic and Renaissance Periods folio
-Lot 24: Architectural and Decorative Plaster Ornaments Catalog
-Lot 31: 1929 Italian Doorways

You get the idea. I could practically list the entire collection as nearly every title is intriguing, and quite likely rare.

So if you've got some extra cash, there's your tip for the week. The auction begins Tuesday evening at 6pm central. For those of you not in KC, the Fine Arts & Antiques auctions include online bidding through Proxibid. Registration is free, and even if you're not bidding you can listen and watch the auction live online.

The link above is to the auction house website, where you'll find a link to the online Proxibid catalog, be sure to take a look.

Roller coaster

Because Mrs. Bell's house was being sold as-is, when we made our offer Brett made sure that we could inspect and cancel if necessary. The inspection was this past Wednesday morning, and it was action-packed.

We knew there was plenty going on with this house that we'd have to address, but seeing it all spelled out on an inspection report, with a few things we hadn't noticed, was bracing. That said, things seemed to be moving along fine (I was taking pictures!) until they got down to the basement and crawl space (we have both).

I was chatting with Phyllis in the kitchen when Brett came upstairs and said "Ok theres a potential dealbreaker down there." The inspector found some water and was convinced that basically all three of the waste pipes under the house were rusted through. Huge deal.

Eventually they got to the fuse box (yes, fuse box) upstairs. The inspector said that it had wrong fuses in it and acted like it could pretty much burst into flames at any minute.

The sellers have stated clearly that they will be making no repairs, so staring down the barrel at these two large issues, along with an endless list of others, you can imagine how heartbroken we were. The only thing to do was to get professional plumbers and electricians there to assess the damage and make our decision then.

I went to work Thursday pretty much certain that the necessary repairs were going to be more than we could deal with right now. Until I got a text from Brett that said "Good news, call you in a bit." As it turns out, the plumber said it was no big deal. The water was coming from a foundation issue (which we knew about and are having repaired). He said "you're going to remodel arent you? We can replace the pipes then, it's fine for now." The story with the electrician was the same. He said it's perfectly safe for now, and when we're ready we can upgrade service and get breaker boxes all at once. No big deal.

Also, the two old furnaces and two not-quite-as-old air conditioners? Covered under a transferrable maintenance contract.

Everything is signed and returned, and it's our (worse for wear) baby now. I'll dedicate an entire post to the kitchen soon as promised, but for now a few shots of some fun and/or horrible things you haven't seen.

Here's the stove in all it's original glory. I can't say I haven't thought about having it restored. It's just that I've thought about a big stainless Wolf range more.

The flooring in the entry hall. Don't fall in love, it's gotta go, along with the asbestos tiles in every closet in the house.

Bedroom number three, which we refer to as the Blue Room. Half the paper is gone because it was falling off the walls, and what remains up seems to be seriously stuck.

The hollywood bath between bedrooms 2 and 3. Yes, the wallpaper is a chinoiserie design, no, sadly, there's no way to salvage. Inspector guy also said not to try using this shower!

The sink in the hollywood bath. There's room for two of these on either side of the window, and indeed there are two of the mirrored medicine cabinets, but for some reason there's just one sink with a big built-in vanity. There will be double sinks in here eventually, along with lots of marble and polished chrome. And who knows, maybe some new chinoiserie paper.

The powder room in all it's purple fixtured, bronze mirrored, fluorescently lit glory. There's a plan cooking for in here too, especially since I found good deals and free shipping on sleek Duravit fixtures on

The dining room, with the coved ceiling that first made me want the house. See all the windows? That's why I think I can get away with black walls here, as well as a pale blue ceiling.

Original barkcloth drapes. Everyone had disappeared when I was taking this so there was nobody to hold them open. It's a cityscape sort of pattern with buildings and trees. We'll be using them for a while as they're the only curtains that remain.

The coved ceiling in the double entry, shot through the doorway we plan to close up when we open up the wall. LOVE these ceilings, and love the ribbed glass, although we'll likely remove and salvage that for use somewhere else. It feels a bit congested now, and you know how I like open space.

A shot of the fireplace and bar, and the doorway to the entry. That dinner plate hardware will be visiting Hiles for some chrome plating and returning home. The bar cabinetry is shot, but rest assured a bar will be there again, with some mirrors and better lighting.

Armillary chandelier

I'm looking for something distinctive without being too off the wall. This is Eric Cohler for Visual Comfort. It says the finish is polished nickel, although looking at the picture I'd have to verify that. I think it needs black shades. 25" high, 35" in diameter. What do you think?


Alright, time for the interior reveal, starting with just the photos from the online listing. You may be horrified and that's okay, in it's current state it's kind of a mess. Hopefully though you'll be able to see that the bones are good. While there are changes we want to make, which I'll detail here, in large part its a matter of updating surfaces.

First, the entry:
It's a rectangular space, sort of made up of two square bays. If you look up towards the ceiling you'll see that there are two divided spaces with coved ceilings. There is lighting behind the crown, which is nice. What's not nice is the pony wall to your left with the scrolley iron and the planter. Originally I wanted the entire entry opened to the living room, but after a great deal of thinking and doodling I think it just needs to become three square columns that line up with the ceiling bays. Open, but with some visual separation. The entry to the family room is straight ahead, and should be closed up.

Living room:
So here is the living room. Wouldn't that end wall be better just being columns? You're also thinking "Why would you close up that entry to the family room?" Well, look to the left of the photo and you'll see that there's a huge picture window between the living and family rooms. Not an addition, the house was built this way, and this is the single thing about the house that Brett hates. I dislike it as well, and think it's the perfect spot to open up the wall. The rooms then would be open to each other, but with a bit of separation again. Yes, those are original barkcloth drapes, which will head to either eBay or the auction house. The planned paint color is a pale silvery gray.

Hungry? Here's the dining room:
Through the living room to the corner of the house is the dining room. Making an appearance again here is the coved ceiling with the backlit crown. This will eventually open to the kitchen, but that's last on a list that will take us years to get through, so we'll just treat it like we're keeping it that way for now. So much window and not much wall is the perfect opportunity for a black room. Flooring throughout will be refinished in a medium gray, all trim will be white. Also, Brett's not only on board with the black walls, but with painting the ceiling in here as well. I'm going to try a really pale gray blue. I've always wanted to do that, hopefully it works. And if not it's just paint.

Come on into the kitchen:
Sporting it's original metal cabinetry (and lots of it!) as well as it's original 1952 range, it's a flashback in black and white. Yes, they papered the ceiling. What's nice is that it's an eat-in kitchen, so there's already all the room needed to expand. The plan is to eventually open the kitchen to the dining room with large pocket doors so that the dining room becomes the eating area. Lots of people have mentioned keeping the kitchen as much in tact as possible, and uh, I can't. I need new cabinetry, more gray wood flooring, quartz counters, stainless appliances, and an island. Anyone who's in love with the vintage charm can have first crack at the cabinets as they're removed to the driveway.

Here's the other end of the L shaped kitchen, what was the eat-in area. We'll keep the functionality of the built-in, just in updated material. What we WILL reuse is the dinner plate-sized hardware. The french doors lead conveniently to the patio where we'll have to retrofit the built-in stone grill.
Back through the kitchen is the family room:
Retro fireplace anyone? How about one with a little bar built in next to it? The bar cabinetry needs updated (it's pretty beat), and that parquet has to become more gray hardwood to match everything else. Also, it's got a tile ceiling that will have to be dealt with. Should we happen onto a buttload of money we'd vault the ceiling in here and replace that picture window with three pairs of french doors. Until then we'll want to just fix the floor and cabinetry and get rid of the paneling.

Looking the other direction:
That cabinetry originally held a TV. Back when TVs were big monsters. So it's not only unnecessarily deep, but there's a walk in closet behind it. Also pretty beat, this will have to be replaced to match the bar. I'm thinking a gray-stained cerused oak. Also back there is the pink tiled half bath with the purple toilet and pedestal sink and smoked mirrors. When we get to bathrooms this will be the easiest to remedy, plus I like it's location sort of away from where people would tend to congregate.

Where the magic happens! The master:
There's not much to see, but it should give you an idea. The room is 14 by 18, with two large closets and a bath off the east end. Love love love the corner window, and even the integrated valance. Floors will be finished to match everything else, and we're planning on a pewtery gray, finely scaled grasscloth for in here. For drapes I've found a silver geometric fabric from Kravet that I love. I'm currently scouring the net to find at a discount.

There are two other bedrooms bookending a hollywood bath, and really all they need are the floors refinished and the walls de-papered and painted. Each has sliding closet doors that I'd prefer to convert to regular hinged doors in a modern, three panel design.

Finally, the back yard:
Hard to see much here. It's a nicely sized yard, needs a fence, and someday a pool. That building on the right is the garage, which along with a side entry is off the kitchen.

So there you go, the Befores of our new place. It'll take most of our time and all of our money, but eventually we should end up with a nice spot. I'll try not to let the blog be taken over by the mundane details of updating a house, but if anything interesting happens or I have any good After shots I'll be sure to share.

Change of Address

Barring any unforseen disasters, Mrs. Blandings has a new neighbor! This is the house we fell in love with. More to come.