Big Finishes

We aren’t going to sugar coat it: for as much fun as this project has been, some of the big decisions for the Little House have caused some anxiety. When I call it our dream house, in no small part am I referring to the countless times I’ve dreamed of things NOT coming together. Luckily, we have recently gotten some major hurdles out of the way!

The first of these has been the spiral staircase. We mentioned in a previous post that we had ordered one from a manufacturer in Tennessee, and it arrived last month as the ultimate DIY. Our craftsmen love a challenge, and they had the project almost finished up before we could even take any progress pics.  I think they were just as excited about it as we are!

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It is quite narrow; thank goodness our variance was approved! Our contractor then installed the remaining spindles, and it was a wrap:

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Another point of stress was our kitchen countertop. In a prior post we mentioned that we wanted to go with soapstone, and to help defray the costs of this choice we did our own “shipping”. We first sourced the sink we wanted: a farmhouse style, extra-wide, single-basin MONSTER. Internet searching revealed several stone shops specializing in soapstone sink construction outside of Philadelphia, PA. After sharking for the best price, last fall we took a day trip up through the Amish Country and collected our treasure, which fit perfectly in our salvaged cabinetry:

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For the countertops themselves we already had one piece of soapstone that we recycled from its former life in a Shenandoah County public school that we used to match with the sink. We knew that there was an old soapstone quarry outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, and using a daring leap of logic, we assumed that the public schools of the 1940s and 1950s would have sourced their materials as closely (read: cheaply) as possible. I dialed up the quarry, Alberene Soapstone Company, and they informed me that they are happy to sell their stone by the rectangle slab, but any custom cuts would be up to our installer. Luckily, our craftsmen had worked with soapstone before and felt up to the challenge! One day a few weeks ago I got the call that our slab was ready.  I hopped in one of the big farm trucks and headed to the quarry.

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After donning safety attire, we headed to pick up the slab.

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Unfortunately it was wrapped up to protect it from road debris during transit, and the anticipation of waiting to see the slab was killer, but well worth it!

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The craftsmen then were able to cut it down so our single solid slab extends out into the window sill and accommodates our sink:

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The recycled piece was also installed – a perfect match!

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Have Yourself a Whitewashed Christmas

We are still very much in a painting phase in the Little House.  As you’ve seen in prior posts, we’ve put quite a few layers of white primer and white paint throughout the house (it feels like we’ve been painting for years), and as clean and crisp as it looks, we’ve been thrilled to finally graduate to more creative applications.

The Little House addition has two closet rooms, both of which are 3/4 barn board.  Many people have expressed a strong preference to see us leave the beauty of the natural wood uncovered; however, we have a bit of an aversion to the 1970s faux-wood paneled look:

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Instead, Chad and I decided to strike a happy medium.  We opted for a white-washed look that would sooth the wood tones but leave the beautiful grain and knots visible.  Whitewashing is typically achieved by applying a white stain to raw wood.  Here’s what we started with in the closets:

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Sarah Richardson of HGTV did a lot of whitewashing in her adorable little island cottage, which was featured on her show, “Sarah’s Cottage”.  Luckily for us, after filming the show Sarah undertook a thorough explanation of her whitewashing technique.  We have always loved Sarah’s shows because she does not shy away from highlighting her debacles, and whitewashing proved no different.  On her show, Sarah found that her whitewashed pine turned a shade of white-ish pink instead of an idyllic, misty white after applying a pure white stain.  Uh oh.  This is not good, because once raw wood is stained, there’s no going back.  Long story short, Sarah recommends a gray shade of stain instead of straight white to solve this problem.

Dutifully, Chad and I agreed to take Sarah’s advice and set our minds on gray stain.  It turns out that the paint store can mix an infinite number of shades of gray, and it was up to us to decide which shade would suit.  It also turns out that there are two different products: Pickling white and tint.  So, we grabbed a variety of samples and tested away:

White Wash Trial

As you can see, we tried a number of variations on the theme.  With the pickling white alone, we weren’t able to get the color we wanted.  With the gray tint, we got the right color, but couldn’t get the coverage we were looking for.   Ultimately, we decided that the most complicated application looked best (of course): one coat of pure pickling white and a second coat of gray tint.  We used Old masters Penetrating Stain for the gray tint.

IMG_2477And with that decision made, we set to work.  We thought white washing sounded a lot faster than regular paint, so against our better judgment, we set some lofty goals for how quickly we would finish the closets.  As you can predict, we underestimated this by a long shot (yet again).

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Both the pickling white and the tint apply like very, very runny paint.  Because the products go on so thin, we ended up needing one coat of pickling white to cover the grain sufficiently, topped with two coats of gray tint to get the right color.  Below you can see the differences between the different coats:

White Wash Applicatoin

We have the first coat on both closets and have finished all of the whitewashing on the western closet.  As Christmas approached and other house projects took precedence, the second closet stands by unfinished, but we are hoping to get that wrapped up soon.  As with so many of the other house projects, the extra time was worth the effort.  The white wash looks stunning and will contribute to the rustic vibe we’re going for throughout the Little House.

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Compare with the pinker eastern closet, which still needs to be topped off with the gray tint:

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IMG_0186(I promise it is pinker, even if these photos don’t seem quite as dramatic as real life!).  Next time, we’ll share some of the beautiful Benjamin Moore Williamsburg Collection shades we’ve splashed on other parts of the house!  In the meantime, happy holidays from Edge Hill!

P.S.  The blog is currently lagging a bit behind our real-life progress (we’ve been working our butts off without much sleep computer time).  We are going to try and update a couple of times over the holidays, and wanted to note for our loyal readers that this post is our first official post from the Little House. WOOOOOOOOOOOO!