Monday, January 31, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 7

Here's a glimpse into what one day will be my refuge within a refuge... the "master" bedroom at the farmhouse! Even though I do mockingly call it the "master" bedroom, I think of it with quotes because a room only 9.5' on a side doesn't seem to deserve the title. Even William Turnbull's 794 square foot employee houses had an 11' by 12' bedroom.

This room has it all, don't you think? You've already seen the new closet, but they've thoughtfully left the clothes storage (those nails in the strip of wood) that predated it. Most of the original layers of wallpaper were stripped off when they blew in insulation, I assume (the little squares replaced in the walls hint at that), and they've obviously done a smashing job on hanging the new stuff. The yellow-flowered linoleum rug is probably original to 1913, although the virulent yellow floorboards underneath have probably been painted far more recently. Capping it off with the acoustic tiles nailed directly to the old ceiling is a nice crowning touch, too.

All sarcasm aside, I have a lot of hope for this room. This is another picture of the same room - the wallpaper is on only two walls and the purple paint is opposite, on the other two. This little cupboard is most likely original, and built into the space under the second chimney. The round circle on the wall is a pie plate covering the hole where a stove of some kind used to be, to heat this bedroom and I suppose the whole upstairs. I have to wonder whether the cupboard actually opened when the stove and pipe were sitting there, or whether they used to remove the stove in summertime. It also makes me chuckle every time I look at this picture and realize that the door is hung backwards, with the hinges toward the window, rather than by the wall where you would expect them.

It's just within the realm of possibility that we'll someday put a little potbellied stove in the room to heat the upstairs in winter, although it will be a pain to rebuild the missing outside part of the chimney.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Real Estate

One of my current enthusiasms is for the Toronto MLS listings, for a variety of reasons. I started out looking for co-op and co-own properties to collect data on their asking prices, but now it's a daily habit to scan every new listing each day in the Central and East regions of Toronto. I often end up sending any funny or outrageous ones to my husband, but I realized this was the perfect place to share them.

Today's caught my eye because of the towering condo buildings on two sides. Looking on Google Street View, I can see that on the right-hand side of this picture is a parking lot for a strip mall right on Yonge, just north of York Mills station.

This plain little house is worth nothing, of course, and the listing is asking $1,300,000 for the value of the land. (I will include the link here, although it will only be good until the property is sold or re-listed, so I'll probably have to come back and remove it soon.) I'd love to be able to tell you what the 5215 Yonge listing is worth, but it's not on MLS, so I'm not sure what's going on there.

My least favourite part of this listing? The text that says "The Creek On Backyard Can Be Refilled.". Poor little creek.

The realtor's description:
Prime Redevelopment Property For Commercial(Needs Rezoning)Or High-Rise Condo When It Combined With 5215 Yonge St(In Mls C2026654). Lots Of Potential. Property Value Only. Live Now & Redevelop Later..**** EXTRAS **** The Creek On Backyard Can Be Refilled.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 6

It's all ours! My son, shown in the picture here, did the work of picking out the letters at the hardware store and put the names on the mailbox. Our little deception on the mailbox makes me laugh every time I think of it.

You get a bit of the flavour of our neck of the woods here. I'm not sure you can really call it a "neighbourhood" when there are only three houses you can see.

The bathroom is nice and clean, or at least it was three weeks ago when we last saw it (the rubber gloves there are a clue). This is the "bad" picture for today, not because there's anything inherently bad about the bathroom, but it is still going to need major work. The problem? That angled wall you see there starts about 4 feet from the floor, which means the shower head is only 5 feet off the floor, and my six-foot husband doesn't fit. If a guy is going to have to re-wire and re-plumb an entire house, he should at least be able to have a nice, hot, comfortable shower at the end of the day.

The little closet at the top of the tub is cute, though. It probably exists only because the chimney coming through the hallway upstairs means the door to the bathroom had to be a certain distance from the outside wall, which forced the sink to be where it is, and the toilet and tub followed from there. I hope I can figure out a better arrangement.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 5

Today I'll finally bring you into the living room, the place where I anticipate spending the bulk of my non-sleeping time at the farmhouse. Here we have the Fisher wood stove; the view (which you can't really see) across the fields to the neighbour's old barn; the original beadboard paneling, covered in many layers of old paint; and an old door, also beadboard, leading to the only closet in the house, which is under the stairs.

There are nice tall windows that stretch down low all through the house. This can be a bit of pain when you want to put furniture or a sink in front of them, but I'd rather have the extra light they let in, especially in wintertime when the sun is low. All the original wooden single-hung windows are in the house. I'm also looking forward to stripping off all the layers of wallpaper which I've discovered are hiding under the white paint on the walls. They've probably done a good job of preserving the plaster.

Now let's look at a different view of the same room. Notice the dropped ceiling (with bonus peeling paint by the back door), which hides the plumbing for the bathroom that was added sometime in the last 50 years (remember the exposed pipes in the dining room?). When someone flushes upstairs, you can all too clearly hear the water whooshing past over your head and down into the basement.

The fluorescent lighting fixture is not a feature I'm eager to retain. I don't mind the grate in the ceiling, though, which lets warm air from the stove up to the second floor - a practical touch, since the stairway doesn't let any heat go up. (The stairs are behind the wall on the left-hand side of this picture, if you're curious). The vinyl tiles on the floor cover the entire main floor, and they will have to go. There's plywood under them, and we'll probably live with the original floorboards for a while until my husband convinces me they're too impractical for the long term.

The trapdoor you see on the right leads to the basement. This is a slight improvement on my parents' farm where the kitchen table had to be moved to get to the basement trapdoor, but I doubt we'll be going up and down that often.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Job Op?

I ran across this little job posting and was charmed by it recently while looking at job opportunities with various boards of education (yes, that season is starting already, believe it or not). It has clearly been torn out of a newspaper, had correction fluid applied, been scanned, and posted on the Rainbow District School Board website as a service to the community.

First of all, who even knew there was such a thing as a "Crown Ward Education Championship Team"? That's awesome! I'd love to be part of a group of people who spend their days trying to help foster kids get more education, training, and jobs. And they need an "Education Research Consultant"... that sounds like just the kind of thing I'd like to try, especially on an eight-month contract, which is what they're offering.

Unfortunately I'm not bilingual, and that's ignoring the more practical constraints of their office being four hours from Toronto, and more than two hours from the farmhouse. I can hardly ignore the contract I have until the end of June, either. Still, it's fun to look at job postings and imagine that I could flip life on its head, and that Toronto might become our "summer place" someday.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 4

I'm generally happy with how much hasn't been done to the farmhouse - I was looking for something that hadn't been too badly re-muddled over the years. However, as this shot shows, the house hasn't completely escaped. I suppose they were going for a rustic effect, or else cared only about function and not about looks; but in a room that's only 9.5 feet on a side, this floor-to-ceiling eyesore really dominates it. The only closet in the house when it was built was under the stairs, so I freely admit that more storage space is needed. I'd far rather have a freestanding armoire, though, and eventually I probably will. (For extra credit, notice how the acoustic tiles nailed to the ceiling stop short of the closet, leaving a gap of old molting plaster.)

Now for the today's good side... the picture isn't of the house itself, but the pies in this apple were picked off our very own apple tree! My mom picked them in November before the frost came, kept them until Christmas, and made pie for us for New Years. They are great baking apples - they kept their shape nicely in the pie and even still had a bit of a crunch in them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 3

If you know me at all, you know I love to cook. After our first visit to the farmhouse I was startled to find that I had spent almost no time considering the kitchen at all, and couldn't even remember how the cabinets and appliances were laid out. I guess I was already thinking of it as gutted!

I'm not a big fan of dumpsters full of perfectly good building materials, but I'm also not a big fan of this kitchen. The 1970s medicine cabinet posing as a window, the faux-rustic handles, and especially the oh-so-practical plywood backsplash are not what I would choose for myself.

One hilarious thing you can't see in the picture is that the kitchen sink doesn't connect to the septic system. The drain pipe runs straight out a hole knocked in the outside wall, and empties onto the ground!

Plans are up in the air for replacing the kitchen - we certainly won't do it any time soon, since this one is perfectly functional once my plumbing-capable spouse handles the drainage issues.

Tonight's 'good' side... along with the house we gained two outbuildings, both full of junk and possible treasures. My son in particular has shown the most interest in sorting through them and putting aside things he thinks have value. He brought in this little hurricane lantern just as we were leaving during the holidays - I didn't even have time to brush the thick layer of dust off it, as you can see. The power often goes off there, since all electricity comes through one access point where the island is closest to the mainland. It was off for about eight hours while we were there, in fact. Filling this little lantern up with kerosene and having it handy will be practical while also indulging my nostalgia.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 2

Tonight I bring you two shots from what will eventually be my son's bedroom. When I think of a cottage getaway kids' room, I imagine a light and airy white room, with a bed and dresser and shelves with artistically arranged shells. I suspect that romantic notion will be dispelled as soon as we've been in there a while and the usual clutter of clothes and books is strewn over the floor, but the child should have at least a decent base to build on, shouldn't he?

So, here's a "before" picture, taken on the day we picked up the keys. Start with a dozen or two layers of wallpaper that have been partially stripped off. Add some mysterious squares of plaster that have been removed, perhaps to blow insulation into the wall, and replaced with squares of drywall that don't fit and aren't flush with the wall around them. Add stomach-turning green paint on the trim and a baseboard heater. You can't really see the flaking paint and plaster on the ceiling in this shot, or the hundreds of dead cluster flies between the window and the storm window, or the "closet" that consists of a piece of wood with nails sticking out of it. (I'm sure you'll take my word for it).

I do believe the bones are good here. The room is small - something like 9.5 feet square - but fortunately the knee wall is over 5 feet tall. There won't be any room left over after a bed, combo armoire/dresser and bookcase go in, but it will be a cosy retreat for him eventually.

Today the "good" picture is harder than the "bad", because I don't know if everyone else will see it the same way that I do. I love the charm of the old painted chair, the faded flowers on the wallpaper, and especially the linoleum rug.

I had only recently read about these linoleum rugs that were popular at the turn of the century. They came in various sized squares that were appropriate for a room, and they could be just laid out and used the way they came. They were generally printed with a border, and usually faked to look like a real woven wool rug.

This has no border, so it may have just been cut from a square of sheet linoleum. The floor boards (which you can't see in this shot) were originally painted to match the background of the pattern. The pattern features an acanthus leaf pattern, very similar to what you see in William Morris designs. The edges and center are pretty worn, but I should be able to salvage a good-sized rectangle of it to use as a bedside rug in my own bedroom later.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts - Part 1 of an Occasional Series

Our new farmhouse needs a ton of work, and I wanted to highlight some of the things that drew me to it, as well as some of the more hilarious aspects that need to be addressed. So, here's part 1 of what will hopefully be an occasional series - a pair of pictures. (Click for full-size versions in all their glory).

I'll do the 'bad' first today - this is a corner of what will eventually be our dining room. I'm sure you'll notice right off the bat that there's a toilet in it. There's a sink on the other side of the window, to go with it. But, notice too, the exposed pipes for the water supply and waste - those connect with the upstairs bathroom. They just don't have the charm of exposed pipes in a loft, now, do they? And why is the wallpaper so dark in that upper corner? It's not a lighting issue with the camera, I assure you. Did the former occupant used to sit there and smoke? No, on second thought, don't answer that.

I suppose the toilet roll holder on the back of the door is quite convenient. And, sadly, we'll probably end up using this toilet (well scrubbed first) when we replace the upstairs bathroom.

On the better side, here's our woodstove on the first night we had company over. My dad built the fire when we arrived, and my mom prepared some spiced cider that's warming up in the red soup pot. Although the house has electric baseboards for heat as well, I hope to burn many cords of wood in this old Fisher stove. I don't think you can make out its little feet in this shot, but you might be able to make out the pine trees gracing the doors.

Right from the first day I staked out my favourite sitting spot, in front of the stove, with a view out the side window to the east where an old barn is in the process of falling down in the most picturesque way imaginable. As long as there's a basket of knitting and a bookshelf nearby, I think I'll be able to amuse myself quite well.