Sunday, May 23, 2010

Favorite Little Pieces of History at Home

Since I am really into history, I contacted a researcher at the Hennepin County Library in their Special Collections Department to inquire about our home's history. Within one day, a man by the name of Ian Stade returned my email with tons of information about our house. The part that meant the most to me, was the original building card, it was the first record of our home, documented the only way it could in that time, on an index card for the city, can you imagine? It tracked any work done on the home, including building and additional work or repairs. The most notable feature, the home was built in 1924, for $5,550 by a contractor of the name Jake Fredson. Sounds pretty cheap! The building card's last listing on our house was 1964, assuming the city developed a new system for tracking and inspecting homes. When I received all of this information, I fell in love with our house more, it had a story, lots of life happened here. I have this hung at the bottom of our stairwell near the front door.

The other favorite in this posting, a real antique, Alex helped a friend move into his grandmother's home, and while moving, found this old grape box, just happened to match our color scheme, I love it! Alex asked if he could take it, and brought it home. He came in and said he had something for me, it was so thoughtful, nice job husband! We have it on our fridge still and it looks so authentic to our house, I love it!

That is it for now, More favorite things to come!!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The first BIG old house dilemma, our Stove and Microwave set up

Wa, wa, waaaaa.... just when we thought we couldn't feel more stressed after we moved in, turns out, the oven didn't work. Well, it worked... a little, you could heat it up to a mear 300 degrees and it would take just under 3 hours to get there! WOW! By the time we could get the oven heated up to make dinner, it would almost be time to go to bed, not to mention that you can't cook many things at 300 degrees. And, we didn't have a microwave, we knew that going into getting the house, so we expected to get one after moving in. One big problem though, the space we had to install a microwave was very awkward, and unrelated, those lights were hideous, those have to go too!

In the photo above, you can see that the oven is set into a boxed area in the kitchen with low ceiling, and behind the oven is an even deeper space- sort of like a shelf, so hmmm, how are we going to get a microwave to hang in here? We didn't want a cheap counter top microwave, we wanted the real deal type you install in a house, or what I describe as the super fancy microwaves with fancy features and super powers!

With all the struggles we were having the first week in our house, fate finally delt us some good luck! Alex and I went to Appliance Smart to look for a discounted microwave, Appliance Smart is a type of appliance warehouse with scratch and dent and good deals if you can find them. As we walked down the rows of microwaves, we found the same microwave we had in our brand new condo, it was a GE Profile SpaceSaver 2.0 with a touch screen, a SUPER FANCY microwave! We looked at the tag and it was $499.00, which we weren't willing to spend at all, then, this is where fate came in, we found it again in the scratch and dent area, $99.99!!!! HELLO! Savings of $400.00?!?! So what was wrong with it? A slight scratch on the touch pad, which was barely visible, so I put my arms around it, guarding my super cheap find and Alex grabbed our sales guy! SOLD! Now, how the hell do we install this?!?!

So, the directions were geared toward a house where this would be installed under a cabinet and in between two cabinets, you know, how new homes are set up, which is pretty ideal, but not in this old house! It was up to my crafty hubby to figure out how to put this guy up, and fast since we didn't have a working oven (the stove did work, we survived for about 7 months with a microwave, stovetop, and grill). So, Alex cut and measured a frame for the microwave with 2x4 pieces of wood (sort of a makeshirt cupboard space), then installed the framing bracket on top of the wood.
Then, came the awful part, trying to hang the microwave, and this was a two person job, let me tell you, NOT EASY! It took us several tries, even figured Alex had to rehang the brackets to get the spacing exact, and when you hang a microwave, you have to butt up the very bottom back first at an angle, then press the top back in last after you feel the bottom brackets hook in, and if both don't hook, you have to try again, and again, and again, I think I cried at one point out of frustration and my arms about ready to give out from the weight of the microwave. But finally, it hooked in, HALLELUJAH!!!!

Yay! We had a microwave, then we were back to the oven issue, we lived with the crappy one until after our wedding, then with some wedding gift money, went to see kout a new stove. Can you guess where? Appliance Smart of course! Nothing better than finding an awesome deal! We found a lovely Frigidaire Professional Series 5 burner stainless steel oven, priced at Lowes for $1,700, at Appliance Smart for $900, so we thought well it is a good deal, then, Alex looked all around it, found a dent in the side, and we thought, lets see if we can get an even better deal, since it wasn't scratch and dent. The manager looked it over and said, okay $750.00, WOO HOO! We got a heck of a deal on the oven, and we can finally bake things!!!! I was also happier because it was so pretty.
So, here is the after, and I can't express how happy I am that we got it figured out, and we got new appliances at great prices. A couple things to note, we took down the ugly old track lights above the oven and installed an oil brushed bronze fixture that had an old feel to it, Alex also found some tin panels that matched the color of our paint and used them as backsplash next to the oven, which was kind of fun and fit the old feel of the house. I love it! And if you are wondering, the cute little door next to the oven, that is a laundry shoot, the shoot connects upstairs, but it is fun to have two shoots! Ahh, the charm of old houses!

DIY Kitchen Cabinet Redo!

This is only part of our kitchen, I will have a few more postings of the other sides, but this is mostly about the cabinets. When we moved in, they weren't old cabinets, but they were that plain maple color, not super nice, and with the rest of the home having white trim, we thought it would tie everything together nicely to have white cabinetry. So this is our before picture, and yes, we had just moved in so it is SUPER messy. And note the glass shelves, those had to go too, and be replaced with something that coordinated with the cabinets.

We had painted the kitchen just after we painted the dining room, so that part was already done (thank goodness!). Before painting any wood, you must sand it down to a raw surface so the paint adheres. Alex sanded down the cabinets, drawer faces, and cabinet doors. Then of course taping everything off to make clean lines.

And here is the 'after' photo! The white color cabinets coordinate really well with the rest of the trim throughout the house, and it brightened the room up against the 'sequoia grove' paint color. Alex picked out new handles and fixtures and added them to the cabinets and drawers to make them look fresher.

We got rid of the glass shelves and put up some white shelves we picked out from Ikea, the glass shelves were more of a contemporary look and our house is better suited for classic or traditional styles and the white shelves fit the room so much better. I also loved the little coffee cup hooks underneath the shelves, just cute! And I have to give my Aunt Julie and my cousin Teresa a shout out, they got us those square white dishes & coffee cups off our wedding registry from Target, and I LOVE them! They look so nice sitting out, not in a cabinet.

And here is a more recent picture of the kitchen during the day time.
So that was the kitchen cabinet redo in a nutshell, not too hard, but of course you can see my husband did all of it, it took him about 3 days to complete the project, I'm very thankful he took this on the week before Thanksgiving, we hosted our first Thanksgiving so it was nice to have a better looking kitchen to fill with family and cook lots of food! Next on our wish list for when we really redo the kitchen is a new sink, new countertops, wood floors (the tile isn't the best) and of course getting the matching stainless steel dishwasher and fridge... but all in time! Patience and saving some moolah is key!

Our Bathroom Update

So, when we moved in, our bathroom wasn't too bad to start, it looked decent, however needed a fresh look. Here is out before picture:
Doesn't it just say.... 'BLAH'. So, to start, we knew we needed a better paint color, the light green really isn't our style, and we had to get rid of the cruddy old medicine cabinet that was close to the end of its life. We stripped everything down, including some trim that went around the middle of the walls, and started patching and sanding the walls.
Then up went the paint! We used Behr Raging Sea since we wanted a mid-tone blue shade, you know, looks very bathroom-y. I don't have photos of the paint going up, it took about 3 coats to get it perfect since it was some fancy paint that can be exposed to moisture, it was pretty irritating to paint over and over, but it eventually stuck! Alex picked out some backsplash to match the paint color and give the room a little extra pattern. Here is a picture of him prepping for the backsplash.
Alex picked out the glass tile from Home Depot, we used three 1'x1' squares
Here is Alex putting up the grout to fill in between the tiles
Then tada! After we put up the new medicine cabinet it was a whole new bathroom! We got the medicine cabinet instead of a decorative mirror since our storage space is limited as it is in our old house, and it is a perfect space to put in extra storage for our little bathroom.
The sink/ cabinet was fairly new, so we didn't make any changes to it (even though I would have loved to do that too, maybe later?) But here is a close up of the backspash, just adds a nice updated look, and protects the wall from water getting on paint.
Here is another final look, I added two 5"x7" black and white photos and a 14"x14" old black and white photo from Alex's bachelor pad days. We got a tie up shade from Target to pull together a newer fresher look in the bathroom. We finished this one up pretty early on after moving in, it was basically paint, new medicine cabinet, and backsplash, pretty easy. We hope in a few months to update the tile floor and bathtub... which will be pretty tough, stay posted for that blog!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our first room project! The Dining Room

So, the first room we decided to tackle was the dining room because, really, it was the easiest room to figure out. We knew what furniture we needed and that we needed a new light fixture and some paint of course, so we got to work! Nothing to tough except patching that GIANT crack in the far wall.
One sad thing, at some point, an owner of the home had the built in removed, which is a crime in an old house! I can only imagine what the real built in would have looked like in the dining room, would have been gorgeous, but for now, we had to purchase our own for the space.
After much debate at the Home Depot and almost coming to tears over the decision (the paint aisle at HD is a great place to completely lose your mind!), we decided on Behr's Sequoia Grove for the Dining Room and Kitchen, we thought the warm redish-orange-brown would suit our style well and fit the older feel of the house.
The hardest thing about the revamp was putting up the light fixture. Have you ever done electrical work in a house built in 1924? NOT EASY! It took Alex about 4 hours, and 2 trips to Home Depot to get that sucker up there! When we took the other light fixture down we found some weird iron bolt thing hanging down in the center of where the light needed to go, along with fabric covered wiring from lord knows when! So it definetly wasn't easy, but once we got it up it looked so lovely! Really added a focal point to the room.
And here is a more recent picture during the day. The wall frames and photos are from Ikea, the white wire decorations by the window are actually chargers from Target along with the table runner & curtains, we got the new buffet from Ikea, I believe it's Swedish name is Liatorp :) it was very difficult to find one that fit the space well and could hold a lot of storage (since we don't have a lot of kitchen cabinets.

Also, we didn't have a dining room table since we lived in tiny apartments before (table for 2!), so when we finally got to choose one, we wanted to make sure it was large enough to fit 6 people. We ended up getting the table on clearance at Ikea (yes, we love Ikea, feel free to make fun, but hey, we are just getting started in life!), and we got an amazing deal on the leather dining chairs from Target, they were normally $99.99, found on sale for $79.99, and I had my discount (10% 0ff) + my Red Card Reward discount (additional 10% off) so each chair was $63.99 each! It was great to finally have a dining room table for 6, great for entertaining and the holidays!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Brief History of the Homewood Neighborhood in Minneapolis

Since I am a nerd when it comes to historic homes and neighborhoods, I wanted to do some research on my new surroundings so I could learn more about the history of the area and the people that had lived here.  

So here's what I learned about the beginnings of Homewood, enjoy!
Cozy Homes in Farwell and Homewood Neighborhoods, Postcard 1920
The earlier history of this neighborhood includes a period around 1908 to 1920 when Jewish and African-American people were excluded by covenant from purchasing homes in this development. Stone markers were erected at the corners of this eighty-acre plot of land to indicate its exclusivity. In short, Homewood was an early version of the gated community.

Because these large and beautiful homes were "out in the country" back then, not many of the targeted wealthy Scandinavian merchants responded by purchasing homes here. The covenant against Jewish people was lifted and the homes sold well until the development was full.  
Gates to Homewood, 1914, 11th block of Penn Ave

Corner of Plymouth and Sheriden 1957
The neighborhood remained predominantly Jewish in nature and culture well into the fifties and early sixties. During this time a bustling business district, including the Homewood Theater, the Homewood Market, the Homewood Hospital and the Homewood Bowling Alley thrived along Plymouth Avenue, it was a beautiful community and a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.

Then in the early sixties, problems of deteriorated housing, lack of jobs, concentrated areas of poverty and frustration with civil rights issues accelerated. In 1967, race riots broke out along Plymouth Avenue. The once bustling business district was destroyed by looting, fires, and shootings, the damages estimated around 4.2 million dollars. 
Aftermath of the 1967 Riots along Plymouth Ave.
Since the riots, Plymouth Ave has never been the same. The neighborhood had changed and the lure of the suburbs attracted many of the residents from Homewood. Homes that had been in families for generations were put up for rent. Less stable populations of residents moved in and out much more frequently. City and community resources were diverted to other areas. What was once one of the more affluent and desirable areas of the city sank into disrepute and disrepair.


Forty years later, our neighborhood is building a new valuable identity. Campaigns like the 'Get to NOMI' (NOrth MInneapolis) were started aimed at getting people reacquainted with North Minneapolis, showing the benefits of the arts, parks, business, diversity, and gorgeous affordable homes.

It is obvious to those people who have lived in the neighborhood for 30 or 40 years, the neighborhood is at a turning point. In our time here we hope we get to see the community evolve even further and make more progress. Just in the year we have been here, we have seen many positive changes, I can't help but passionate and hopeful for the future of North Minneapolis. 


Please let me know if you have other information about the history of North Minneapolis or the Homewood neighborhood.  I'd love to add to this post with more info or photos!

So… Why did we choose this house???

Before Alex and I bought our house, we were living in a brand new condo on the 21st floor of a high rise in downtown Minneapolis, quite different from a Dutch Colonial build in the 1920's. So why did we buy an old house? We have always loved old architecture and the warmth and history behind an older house, they have so much character and charm to fall in love with. We loved being downtown and miss it very much, but living in a 700 square foot 1 bedroom box is tough for 2 people and 2 dogs, and a life that was beginning to grow (and the amount of stuff you own does too) wasn't making any sense at all.
This was our 700 sq foot box of a condo at Skyscape

And we never thought we would be 'suburban' type of people living far from the city, so living in a more urban neighborhood in the city close to everything (and a 3 minute commute) was VERY appealing! We didn't know a whole lot about an area outside of downtown Minneapolis since we moved here from Michigan for work, so we had to get to know a lot of new places while we searched for our perfect little home.
The balcony of our 21st floor condo was no environment for Rocco to grow and be safe in!

Funny thing is, the house we ended up choosing, was actually the first one we clicked on to view pictures of when we started our search and the first house we did a little 'drive by' of before we made appointments to view houses. When we drove by, we had never been in the area before, didn't quite know where we were, but found the area to be very charming and cute, all the houses were colonial, arts & craft, bungalow, or Spanish style with tree lined streets.  
One block over we found the Theodore Wirth Recreation Park, which in the winter was filled with people sledding, cross country skiing, and even snowboarding. In the summertime the park is a golf course with 18-hole and Par-3 courses. The Grand Rounds Trail goes through the park as well, which is 53 miles of trails that can take you around the Minneapolis Parks and Byways, perfect for my husband who bikes, and me for running! There are also mountain biking trails in the woods of Theo Wirth Park! We were amazed at all the parks and trails right near the house, just seemed very perfect for our interests and lifestyle.
It was time to Get to NOMI!!!!
We explored more around the area, and did find some parts of North Minneapolis that definitely aren't as nice as others, but overall, we really loved the Homewood part of the neighborhood. And our cute little Dutch Colonial couldn't be more charming, we quickly fell in love with the house, mainly loving the floorplan, woodwork, and staircase. The house reminded me a little of my grandma's house, which was my favorite home to play and explore in when I was little. Our house had the same arches, doors, crystal doorknobs, and creepy little crawlspace, just like at my grandma's! I love our neighborhood and neighbors, so as I continued to get settled in, I wanted to learn more about the history of the area, and the history of my home… more to come!

When the Story Began- March 27th, 2009, Closing Day

I have to admit, the day we closed on our house and moved in wasn't a very happy day. I always imagined that the day we would buy our first house it would be amazing, exciting and we would burst through the door cheering and pop champagne…. But it wasn't like that at all, quite the opposite really.  Here's the story of our Closing Day on March 27th, 2009.


The day was off to a bad start to begin with.  We went for our final walk through and that was when we REALLY realized what we were up against.  We knew this house was a bit of a fixer upper when we decided on it, but that day when we walked through we realized this was a HUGE FIXER UPPER!!!  With it being our first home and having no experience in home renovation, my mind started racing… Were we ever going to make this house feel refreshed and new again?

Then, more worries...

Was this ever really going to feel like our own home? How are we going to do this on our own? Our family is back in Michigan so we didn't have anyone we could call up to help with work or projects. The last HUGE worry on my mind was that we were getting married in August in Michigan.  I was still planning and working through all those long distance details, so how could I juggle that along with making this house our home?  - Oh - and probably the most important of all (or there'd be no wedding or house) my full time gig at work.  

I knew when we began house hunting that all of it would be going on but man, in that moment it all hit me- and I mean hit me like a brick to the gut.   It felt more than overwhelming.

After we turned the key to the door and entered for the first time as the home owners, we just stared at the surroundings in silence.  We decided to wait on popping the bottle of champagne since it didn't feel very celebratory.  Then Alex left to meet his buddy to help move our big furniture.  

There I was all alone in our home, the first home I/we have ever owned.  I looked around at our piles of stuff, the ugly woodwork, wall colors, and ugh, just all the work that needed to be done.  It didn't feel like my home and in that moment, I sat at the top of our stairs and cried...  Loudly.... Sobbing... Gasping for air... Drippy nose... Wailing like an idiot.  I still wonder if any of my new neighbors heard me that day?  Needless to say, one of life's biggest milestones sure didn't play out the way I had imagined.

Now since I am telling this story a year later, I am happy to report that everything turned out fine (so far at least).  We managed to get most of the rooms looking completely different in a matter of months, and we had a beautiful wedding!  Following the wedding, we finally got our champagne popping moment when we returned home from our honeymoon as husband and wife in our (nicer looking) house.  In that moment, it really felt like home.


Looking back, I can smile now when I think about that moment when I cried at the top of our stairs.   I remember how much work we went through and how hard things were when we moved in.   I'm amazed at how far our little 1924 Dutch Colonial came along in just over a year!  Most of all though, it seems as though the place we imagined this fixer-upper to be is beginning to take shape and we're proud that it is ours.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Better Late than Never- Welcome to Hammers & High Heels!!!

Welcome to Hammers and High Heels! I've been wanting to start a blog for awhile now.  We have been on quite a journey with our house and haven't yet been able to tell the stories about it and our new life as a married couple living in the beautiful Homewood neighborhood in Minneapolis. Anyway, I am excited to get started and share some of the home renovations we have already completed and plenty more to come of course. In addition, I am excited to share a little history and fun information about where we live. And I can't forgot, yes, the high heels part, even though we are in home renovation hell most of the time, I still like to be my glamorous self, big shoes, big hair.... you know, just having fun being girly, so here it begins... Hammers and High Heels, the drama of an old home's renovation, living the dreams (and nightmares) of home ownership!  Welcome to our Hammers and High Heels adventure!