Update: My Friend’s Inn

It’s been a very long time since I posted anything about the B&B my friend opened. She bought a large old Victorian house and restored it to its original glory and enlisted my help. It was a big project; in fact it is what inspired me to start this blog in the first place. The very first post I wrote was about whether we should put a commercial water softener in the Inn. (We did install a water softener and it was a really smart decision. Linens stay like-new a lot longer when you wash them in soft, mineral-free water. It might not sound like a lot but it has helped my friends save money in the long run.)

It has been almost two years since we started work on the house. The work was hard and there was a lot of it: we pried up linoleum, steamed off wallpaper, sanded floors, and hunted for Victorian fixtures in salvage shops. It was both the most tiring thing I’d ever done and the most fun. It wasn’t easy getting it to look like this, but it was sure worth the effort:

Photo credit: Patrick Q via RemodelHackers / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: Patrick Q via RemodelHackers / CC BY-NC

The inn hosts about 30 guests each month and is doing exceptionally well. If you’re interested in checking the place out, there are a couple of events coming up.

4th of July Garden Party

Sip lemonade and enjoy some petits-fours in the inn’s backyard!

Sunset Barbecue

Celebrate the end of summer by eating hot dogs by sunset at the end of August.

Harvest Tea

Enjoy everything that fall has to offer! Apple tarts, pumpkin bread, cider and more!

How to Hide Unsightly Appliances

Water softeners are essential appliances but not very pretty to look at. Fortunately they are easy to hide! Photo credit: bfishadow via Source / CC BY

Water softeners are essential appliances but not very pretty to look at. Fortunately they are easy to hide! Photo credit: bfishadow via Source / CC BY

Water heaters, air conditioners, electrical boxes, and residential water softeners are things we need, but they sure aren’t pretty look at. Fortunately, there are several clever ways to hide those unsightly things from view.


Building a beautiful wooden cabinet around an appliance like a water heater or water softener is a great way to disguise it while still making it accessible for repairs.


A screen is a simple, low-cost option for hiding appliances. There are scads of attractive screens to choose from; I bet you could find really neat ones at antique shops or salvage stores. The biggest advantage of a screen is that unlike a cabinet, you can fold it up and take it with you when it’s time to move to a new place.


Another low-cost option is to install a track above the ugly appliance and put up a curtain that you can pull around it. Because curtains come in a wide range of prints, you’re sure to be able to find something that fits with your decor.


For outdoor air conditioners that jut out from the side of your house, consider building a low fence around them. This will disguise the unit while still making it easy to access when the repairman comes.


In place of a fence, build a shed around outdoor appliances. This will give you space for additional storage and keep your spades and pruning shears from getting rusty in the rain.


They’re not just for radiators anymore! I’ve seen people build peg board water heater covers that also provide storage for household tools.

Built-ins/Secret Doors

Want to be really fancy? Build a built-in shelf that will serve as a secret door that will seamlessly hide your water heater while providing a place to put your first editions.

You never have to choose between style and function! The right solution will keep your space pretty.

Tin Ceilings

Photo credit: Terry.Tyson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Terry.Tyson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Few things make you feel like a time traveler more than walking into a saloon, looking up and ceiling a pressed tin ceiling. For 19th century American builders who couldn’t afford to do the elaborate plaster work common in fancy European homes, tin ceilings were an affordable — and attractive alternative.

My favorite example of tin ceilings is Hotel Prairie in Prairie City. The ceilings are a sort of dark bronze color that just has so much warmth. Whenever I go through Prairie City, I like to stop at that hotel and have a glass of wine in their cozy bar.

Tin ceilings seem to be making a comeback. I came across a video on HDTV showing people how to install tin ceilings. If you Google ‘tin ceilings’ you see all kinds of modern uses for them. I gotta say, I really do not think recessed or track lighting go well with tin ceilings. But that’s just one old lady’s opinion. I think a lot of ‘tin ceilings’ are faux now, made out of some sort of vinyl. Everything is vinyl now: wainscoting, tin ceilings. Everything but your record collection!

Tin ceiling tiles are stamped and embossed. (A process that should not be confused with precision metal stamping.) Metal ceiling tiles last for years — they probably hold up better than the embellished plaster ceilings they were created to emulate. I hoped to find a video on the YouTube of a tin ceiling being made but I didn’t have any luck.

Would you add a tin ceiling to your house? Tell me in the comments!

Corrosion Resistant Hinges

Photo credit: kreg.steppe via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: kreg.steppe via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

A friend called me up the other day. He said he wanted to retro-fit his garage door with corrosion resistant hinges. I joked with him and asked, “What are you doing in your garage that you’re so worried about hinges corroding?”

Actually, he has good reasons to be concerned about corrosion resistance. As you may or may not know (depending on if you’re an Oregonian or not!) our town, Astoria, is right on the water. My friend’s house is very close to the water, so when storms come through and stir up sea water, he does have to worry about saltwater corroding things.

However, I’m not sure why my friend felt like he had to call me; corrosion resistant hinges are not hard to come by. In fact you can get them pretty much anywhere. The Home Depot in Warrenton isn’t so far away, and they certainly do have plenty of corrosion resistant hinges in stock.

Of course, if you live very close to the sea, corroding garage door hinges should be the very last thing you worry about. It’s very important that you take steps to weather proof your home, and that you have everything you need in case a storm moves through your area. This article about weather proofing seaside homes is pretty good.

Saunas, Steam Rooms and Hot Tubs

Household Amenities for Sane People

Recently, someone asked me if I could help install a cleanroom in his house. I didn’t know what in the sam hell he was talking about. He said he’d seen an episode of “House” where a girl had a cleanroom in her house because she had so many allergies. I told him, you know, that’s a TV show. You probably can’t do that. He insisted that it is possible and he said he needs it because he will sleep so much better knowing that there’s no dust in his bedroom. I am pretty sure he’s just a hypochondriac. I told him that I cannot help install a cleanroom in his house; he should call some cleanroom professionals like Cleanrooms by United for that. (I suspect that Cleanrooms by United will laugh and hang up.)

While you probably don’t have the money (or the need/desire) to install a cleanroom in your house, there are other amenities you can add to your home at a much lower cost.

Hot Tubs

Who doesn’t love a hot tub? Those of us who are getting on in years and complain about plantar fasciitis all day long really appreciate those jets. The great thing about hot tubs is that they pretty much come in all sizes, so even if all you have is a postage stamp of a backyard, you can fit a hot tub in it. Get some high-quality, weather-treated wood and build a lovely deck around your hot tub, string up some lights in your yard, and presto! You’ll transform your postage stamp into a relaxing grotto.

Steam Rooms

It’s really easy to add a steam room to your house. All you need is a small steam generator that you add to your shower stall, and a small bench. (This is probably easier in showers stalls that are just showers, with no tub underneath, but you can do this with your tub too. It may drive up your electric bill a bit but if it helps you unwind, it’ll be worth it.


If you have a basement, odds are there’s a dark corner it it that’s full of empty boxes and spider webs. Why not clean it out and put a little sauna in it? Get some top-notch cedar planks and build a sauna from scratch but be careful to ensure that it’s air-tight so that moisture doesn’t get into your walls and cause mold. Or, buy one from Home Depot and install it — easy peasy.

Other things I have not covered in this post include panic rooms, walk-in safes and gun closets. Sorry folks but you’ll need to consult another blogger about those things. If you need one of those in your house, you’re just as whackadoodle as the cleanroom guy.


No, You Cannot Do Your Whole House in ‘Shabby Chic’

Shabby Chic — taking a piece of painted furniture and sanding it to make it look old — is an aging trend. When you do your entire house in Shabby Chic, it gets old — real fast. I’m not saying Shabby Chic pieces can’t be cute. But the idea is to have one piece in your house that’s Shabby Chic. That way, it looks like you have this one, old, well-loved piece of furniture. If all of your furniture looks this way, it looks, well, fake. Choose one piece that you really love.

But, hey, that’s just one old lady’s opinion. Do you disagree? Let me have it in the comments!

Shabby chic. It's a nice look, but don't over do it.  Photo credit: PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Shabby chic. It’s a nice look, but don’t over do it.
Photo credit: PetitPlat – Stephanie Kilgast via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Historic House Parts

Photo credit: ktmadeblog via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: ktmadeblog via Foter.com / CC BY

I just discovered my new favorite website! It’s called Historic House Parts and it has everything you could possibly need for restoring a Victorian house. And I do mean everything: from metal castings like drawer pulls and strap hinges to ceramic parts like wall sconces and decorative tile. I have been combing through this site all morning! I’m actually thinking of ordering a light fixture or two.

When restoring a house to its original look and feel, you often need to replace items that have gone missing. While you may not be able to find the exact sconces/bathroom tiles/door knobs that your house originally had, you can find antique parts from the same time period — if you know where to look. Architectural salvage stores are another good source for antique parts; if you’re in Oregon, consult my handy list of antique, salvage and vintage shops.

When shopping for an antique part, don’t limit yourself. If you don’t find exactly what you want at your local salvage store, you don’t have to settle. Try sites like Ebay, Etsy and Historic House Parts. Of course, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll find the exact part that you need. But renovation takes a lot of time, effort and money. To get the most out of your investment, it’s vitally important that you don’t cut corners. And that includes shopping for those just-right antique pieces.


Sites like Historic House Parts are a great source of parts that can be upcycled. If you’re not familiar with upcycling, check out these stunning examples. I helped some friends in the past with some upcycling — when I helped my friend redo her basement, we turned an old wagon wheel into a chandelier and an old Relaxacizor into decoration. Upcycling is one of my favorite things that the young folks are doing these days.

Restoring Furniture

Historic House Parts is a great source of antique drawer pulls which is great when you have and old dresser and need to give it new hardware — and new life. In fact, Historic House Parts has everything from Colonial style drawer pulls to Art Deco drawer pulls. My granddaughter thinks it would be a fun idea to put different drawer pulls all over a dresser — no two pulls alike. I think that’s a fun idea!

7 Things that Ugly Up Your Home’s Interior

Photo credit: Katie@! via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Katie@! via Foter.com / CC BY

Last week we talked about remuddles — homes ruined by thoughtless remodels and additions. However, a home that’s ugly on the outside is much easier to live with than one that’s ugly on the inside. At least if it’s on the outside, you don’t have to see it when you’re inside. I always used to tell my son that a woman who looks great on the outside but has a nasty personality will become ugly inside and out one day. Same goes with your house. If it’s nasty on the inside, fix it up!

There are many things that can make a house ugly. Here are just a few:

1. Linoleum. Nicole Curtis has explained why we often find beautiful hardwood floors under fugly (my grandkids taught me that word) linoleum. In the mid century (think 1950s and 60s) women wanted something that was different from what their mothers had. Slapping linoleum onto hardwood floors was an easy way to accomplish that. Linoleum, when newly laid, can be bright and cheery. But over the years it becomes dingy. Unlike a hardwood floor, you cannot sand and refinish linoleum to revitalize it. The only thing you can do with it is replace it or get rid of it all together. Please, if you have linoleum floors, peel them up and refinish the wood underneath!

2. Dated wallpaper. This can be tricky, as things do come back into fashion. Many wallpaper manufacturers are offering ‘retro’ wallpapers from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Does that mean if you have wallpaper that dates back to those eras that you should just leave it? Should you replace 90s wallpaper with a 70s reproduction? I’m all for retro stuff but you have to be careful with that stuff — if it was a bad idea the first time around, it will be a bad idea this time too. Choose retro wallpapers with caution. And get rid of anything that would have made Scott Baio feel at home; if you have that ‘brushstroke‘ wallpaper from the 80s/90s…please please make it go away.

3. Wall-to-wall carpet. I do not intend to malign all carpet. But the wrong carpet can really ruin a room. If you wake up in a room with a sea of emerald green carpet, will you be happy there? What if it’s a faded purple or bright red? These are trends from days gone by, and they should go by, completely. Laying down carpet is a huge pain in the ass — that’s why it doesn’t pay to be trendy when choosing it. After all, that’s why some people still have ugly green carpets — because ripping them up is too much work. This article provides a handy guide for choosing the right carpet. 

4. Interior remuddles. Remuddling doesn’t just happen outside. People remuddle — albeit on a smaller scale — inside also. Does the house have amazing plaster ceiling medallions? Don’t you dare put in a drop ceiling — especially one with acoustic tiles that make your home look like an office. Do not cover up cool features — don’t hammer rectangles of cheap paneling over the spindles on your staircase. Oh, and if you have amazing inlay in your hardwood floors, NO TILE, LINOLEUM OR CARPET FOR YOU!

5. Lack of drywall. This isn’t a design choice that people make. But I have seen houses that have been gutted down to the studs and for some strange reason stay that way for a long time. DO NOT QUIT YOUR REMODEL AT THIS STAGE. If you have taken down drywall, fix whatever you need to fix and put it back up. A house without walls is pretty uninviting.

6. Spackle patches. It is not acceptable to simply slap spackle over a hole. Plug the hole with spackle, then sand it and repaint that part of the wall. You would not believe how many people skip those last two steps. Don’t do that. It looks baaaaaaaaaaaaad.

7. Fuzzy toilet lid covers. I just really hate these.



Happy New Year: Resolve Not to Remuddle

‘Remodel my house’ doesn’t crack the list of top 10 New Year’s resolutions people typically make. However, I know darn well that there are folks out there who say to themselves, ‘this is going to be the year that I turn this crackerbox into my dream house!” While I’m all for remodeling, I want to send a message of caution to those folks: by all means, beautify your house but please — please — beware of the pitfalls of remuddling.

Remuddling is MEAN

You know when you put outfits on your dog and he gets that embarrassed look in his eyes? That’s what remuddling does to your house. It takes away your home’s dignity. Houses that didn’t need restoration before someone remuddled them sure as hell need it after. Nothing good comes from remuddling. If you’re not convinced, check out these examples:

Notice the porches. The one on the bottom shows you what the top one looked like originally...before they crammed that ugly stucco box into it.

Notice the porches. The one on the bottom shows you what the top one looked like originally…before they crammed that ugly stucco box into it.

What were they thinking?

What were they thinking?

If you can't make an addition match the original house, don't add it!

If you can’t make an addition match the original house, don’t add it!



What Causes Remuddling?

Honestly, I think it boils down to two things: laziness and cheapness. If you’re building an addition on your house, take the time to make sure it matches your house and spend the money to find the materials that match the original ones. I think many remuddles are the fault of slumlords who want to increase the square footage of a building so they can squeeze more money out of it, but don’t give a hoot about how it actually looks. Remuddles also happen when people try to make repairs and do it on the cheap — without caring how it looks or desiring to preserve the home’s original details.

How to Avoid Remuddling?

The easiest way to avoid remuddling: just don’t put additions on your house. If your house was meant to have that extra room, the architect would have put it in the original blueprints.  The fact is, the person who built the house was probably better at designing houses than you are. Leave his/her vision alone. Also, recognize that a porch is a privilege — do not board or brick it up! Please! Before you do something that makes your house ugly, consider selling the house to someone who will love it for what it is, and buying a new house that has that extra bathroom you just can’t live without.