The Summer Kitchen

Over the last few months, we’ve really been adding to our collection of milestones:


First one on deck for this blog:  the summer kitchen!  You may recall from prior posts that the Summer Kitchen has long been attached to the Big House, originally by an open-air breezeway, next by a 1960s/70s north-wing addition that enclosed the breezeway, and finally in our version of Edge Hill, via the kitchen pavilion space that replaces the 60s/70s addition.

The original kitchen structure was one of the most dubious parts of our entire project.  We always knew we wanted to save/rehab as much of the original summer kitchen structure as we could, but our contractor knew the team would have to evaluate what (if anything) could be saved once they got into the thick of things.  Thus, during demo, we were left with:


Sort of like a boxer with one tooth left . . . but still fighting!  The two walls not pictured in the photo above had already been re-pointed and stabilized, but the wall facing us had SERIOUS issues.  It has been bowing inward for years – even a lay person could notice that it was curved, at some point deflecting in about 5 inches:


It was basically like someone had taken a huge swing at the center of that wall, and the whole structure was at the point of cave-in.  Our motto was: “don’t sneeze near the wall.”

Part of the problem was a prior renovation had removed the rear wall to the building, which had been providing lateral stabilization.  Another part of the problem was that the gutter downspout, as you can see above, was channeling all of the water directly into the foundation of the of the building.   It was a disaster waiting to happen.

Enter the Herr & Co. rehab team, who first built temporary walls to make sure the remaining structure was not further compromised by our repair, and who then began to take the wall out, brick by brick:


As you can see in the picture above about halfway down, at some point someone had tried to repair the wall by simply applying new mortar, but that mortar was too hard (and our bricks are super soft), which caused the bricks in the center of the wall to begin to disintegrate.  Normally,  we’ve learned, you want your mortar to be softer than your bricks so that if there is a weak point being damaged by water, your mortar is the first to go.  This gives the homeowner a red flag about the problem and also a much easier to repair once the water problem is fixed.  Alas, a water problem and a poor repair spelled DOOM for our wall.

Our guys saved the good brick, but much of what was there was too compromised for re-use.


Finally, the wall was down!


Then, it was time to start building it back up. First, the roof was removed.  This shot shows the original chimney breast windows, which had illuminated the loft in this building.  During de-construction we did not find any glazing in these windows, so the sashes had either been long removed, or the openings may have just been shuttered with no glass.


Many historic Shenandoah Valley homes have these small windows, and we knew immediately that we wanted them to shine light into the new space.  As a result, wse had the builder frame a vaulted roof for the space that would not obstruct the windows.

Then, the wall was rebuilt from our salvaged brick!  The new brick will have a lighter mortar color as compared to old hard grey mortar, in line with what we used on the rest of the project. This building will always have a little “Frankenstein’s Monster” quality to it, closing in on two centuries of use and repair, but at the end of the day, we are so pleased with the final result!

IMG_4300The large windows were left at their original hight, which will be a little lower than typical today, and you can see the mason did a running, or “American”, bond on this structure to match the original design.  We think those old bricks really cleaned up nice.

On the interior of the summer kitchen, we sprayed a layer of insulation and will keep some of the original beams and fireplace exposed (sorry for the sub-par lighting in these pictures):

IMG_1155.jpg .   IMG_7523.jpg

Finally, we got yet another little surprise when re-constructing this room.  The remaining original beams that you see in the shots above support a hanging shelf.  There is no indication this fireplace ever had a mantel, so we are guessing that this shelf served that purpose, hanging from the original beams.  One day we were up on a ladder inspecting the brick work and looked down at the shelf:


In the center of that photo you can see an old tin stencil:


“S. Moore” – Samuel Moore bought the house in 1846!  Looks like no one had cleaned that shelf in quite a while.  We think this stencil would have been used to mark trade goods coming from Edge Hill.  Pretty neat!

Saving the summer kitchen has been a real labor of love. We see ourselves using this space almost daily for the duration of our lives at Edge Hill, first as an office/workspace, and then, in our golden years, a downstairs bedroom for single-floor living.  We have designed this space to “age-in-place”: ensuite to the room shown above we have a good-size closet and full bath that is fully handicap accessible.  We will love our bedroom upstairs with its view of the river, but are under no illusion that we will always want to (or be able to) go up and down the grand staircase.  Incorporating the Bill Logan maxim of the 5 Ps -“Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance” – we have a space that will hopefully see us through.

Further, if you recall, the summer kitchen was the only part of Edge Hill that originally had a basement space, which we think was the original root cellar.  We have saved and incorporated that room into our basement . . . which one day may hold an extensive collection of Three-Buck Chuck!

We morbidly joke that with the scope of this project, we both plan to die in this house (we wouldn’t be the first).   Our family has picked up on this, and a couple of birthday’s ago one of us got this card from the Winters’ side:


Assuming we achieve the goal of out-living our renovation, now we can joke, with more specificity and certainty, this will be the room we die in!

Window to the Stars

A micro post- but, MACRO excitement.  The crowning feature of our addition is the roof lantern skylight.  As most of you know, we are taking a lot of design cues from Thomas Jefferson, but our inspiration structure – Pavilion IX on the Lawn at UVA – has a hipped roof that comes to a point at a chimney, and we don’t have a fireplace in the middle of our building . . . so we looked at other, better-known Jefferson structures – and – jackpot!  Jefferson loved natural light, utilizing oversized windows in many structures, and had a particular penchant for skylights.  He had them in the dome rooms at both Monticello and UVA’s Rotunda, and he also had skylights in his second-story rooms at Monticello.

After some design discussions, we chose the folks at Renaissance Conservatories in Pennsylvania, and they delivered the final product this week!


All set!  Now to stand back and enjoy the view…



. . . and all of that natural light!


And, one of the coolest features: we can remote vent this side light window to get some airflow when the weather cooperates!


We are still waiting on the pointed finials, which will cap off the completed look, but those will be installed down the road.  Now, let’s hope this week of rain lets up sometime soon so we can check out the stars.

Spring Growth

It feels like spring has sprung here in the Shenandoah Valley – the trees are budding, blooms are popping up, and we are having temperatures in the 90s today.  Time for sunglasses and ice cream!


Things at Edge Hill are looking sunny, too.  Chad has been hard at work in our little garden.  We’ve always had big dreams for an idyllic spot where we could drink wine, watch the kids run, and enjoy the butterflies landing soundlessly on our growing harvest.  A couple of years ago, Chad and Steve put in some sweat equity to build beautiful garden boxes:


Then, last year (I think?), I got Chad this industrial table and stools made out of a tractor gear that he’d had his eye on . . . but time and weeds (and chickens) crept in through the mulch:


This year, Chad got 6 tons (literally) of stone delivered to finish off the look.  The stone actually got delivered just before a seasonally late March snow, and the girls thought the pile of rocks made a great sledding slope.  You can see the stone pushing up against the beds on the left (not the extra-giant mound of fill dirt in the back), and also behind Caroline and the snowman in the shot on the right:

Guys, that’s as much stone as the weight of an elephant!  Chad spread the stone by hand (he was paying penance for a crime in a former life) and added a border to keep the stone from drifting away over time.   The finished product is beautiful!


We did, in fact, enjoy a glass of wine by candlelight out there the other night.  The dusk truck traffic diminishes the ambiance a bit, but it was still delightful (everything is relative).  We are growing tomatoes (heirloom and cherry), banana peppers, jalapeños, serranos, chard, lettuce, and radishes, to name a few.  The tomato harvest has been dismal the last two years, so we’ll see what we get . . .

At our last house update, we had taken everything down to the dirt – in other words, as low as we could go.  Literally and figuratively.  We were feeling the construction blues, for sure – timeline and budget both took a bit of a hit.  As you’ll remember, termites were to blame.


Out came the floors and joists – a complete gut job.


We have, however, gotten the termite problem remedied (I think Orkin wants to kill us, because they have had to come back out ~3 times, but they have been great to work with).  The good news was that, in ripping out almost all of the floors in the Big House, we gave the tradesmen much easier access to the crawl space – the plumbers and electricians were delighted that they avoided crawling on their bellies with the creepy crawlies to run wires and ducts.  We were also able to add back a much stronger floor system, complete with concrete piers.

This improvement actually stabilizes the walls of the house, too, so were are 3 for 3: 1) termites eliminated; 2) stronger infrastructure; and 3) happy subcontractors.



The subfloor has already been put back down, so we are back to where we started but with an upgraded model:



Now that we are building instead of tearing down, we have started getting to some of the *fun* decisions.  There is, however, no thrill without some stress, right?  We are going a little crazy right now trying to make sure that every outlet and light switch is in the right spot (and thus trying to anticipate where our un-purchased, twinkle-in-our-eye future furniture will be placed, where we will want Christmas lights, and where we think we will need feature lighting on the antique art we will surely acquire at a charming antique shop in the south of France on our tenth wedding anniversary (Chad, are you reading this?  I hope you’re booking plane tickets . . .)).

But, despite all of that, it has been great to see things taking shape.  Our bathrooms have been framed up, the central vac lines have been installed, the door from our master bedroom to master bath has been cut through the brick wall (see on the left wall of the first picture below):


(and here it is again, from the other side of the new, Kool-Aid Man doorway – straight ahead in the picture below – Oh, yeah!)


and, the porch outside the mudroom is taking shape:


AND – almost all of the exterior brick has been completed!  The match with the original stuff is AWESOME – we are so pleased!


We are starting to source light fixtures, and faucets, and tile, and wall paper, and door knobs – OH MY! Heaven help us!

We have also acquired a trench the size of the Mariana out back to daylight our foundation drains.  It involved an unintentional cut to the water line for the entire farm and a much rockier project than the subs expected, but they got the job done.


Happy spring, y’all!  Cheers to coming out of the winter season without too many snow days!

Getting Worse/Getting Better

We are pretty sure whoever came up with the maxim, “It gets worse before it gets better”, was renovating an old house.  In our project planning, we told our builder to assume worst-case scenarios for the Big House . . . all the plumbing needed to be re-done, we needed to remove the old heating systems, we needed to install air conditioning, we needed a new roof . . . pretty much everything but walls and floors . . . Weeeelllll, we knew we would need to do some work to “shore up” one of the sagging floors, but we almost didn’t even count that in the face of all of the other work on the list.  Relatively, a minor thing.  I mean, we were living there for two years!


The sag, however, should should have tipped us off.  We found out there there was some termite activity, but again, we had lived there, how bad could it have been??

Bad.  Very, Very Bad.

Apparently, termites had, and have, been living there for decades, cozy deep in our floor joists, drawing moisture from the poor drainage plan and exterior walls.


These terrors spilled out of a beam this week.  We had already had the house sprayed, and now have a direct-dial-cell-phone relationship with our local Orkin man.  At this point, we moved full steam ahead in the removal of every single floor joist in the larger rooms of the Big House in an attempt to eradicate any “home” that termites may have established at Edge Hill.




Let’s see that side-by-side:

This work has given us a dramatic perspective on the construction of the Big House, with foundations (and fireplaces) running deep (but a complete lack of vapor barriers).

The removal of the floors has felt like we are ripping out the heart of the Big House, but we are taking all of these steps with our eye on the future.  Insecticide (all of it, right now, please) will be applied.  Vapor barriers will be laid. New beams will be installed.  The original pine floor boards will be salvaged and returned for the next 180 years.  There will be holiday parties and fetes for years to come.  But for now, we have dirt pits and and thresholds four feet above grade.

We did make one more interesting discovery.  In the rear parlor of the big house, there was a small-board floor installed overtop the original pine floorboards, and we had speculated that they were put in to help prop up a sagging floor.  Turns out, that floor had been there a while:


This tag says: “Sam Moore” “Quicksburg, Va”.  Sam Moore bought the house in 1846!  We don’t know why he installed this flooring overtop the original pine flooring, but we have salvaged it and plan to incorporated it into the floor of the Summer Kitchen.

Upstairs, we have also been de-constructing, and opening a passage from our master bedroom into the future en-suite. 


Meanwhile, in the new addition, we look less like a disaster area.

Bricks are going up!


Stairs are going in!


The basement floor is poured!


We have also tied the addition into the original summer kitchen, and integrated the summer kitchen and root cellar into our addition:


IMG_0165At this point, as we walk around, the house looks raw and open, but we know the next few weeks will see us turn the corner and we will begin thinking about floors, finishes, and final coats of paint.  Until then we will dream about it getting better.

Behold: the Frame-Up!

We usually love snow, but this year Edge Hill has been hit by every dry slot the meteorologists’ forecasts, leaving us with a very dry and mostly mild winter.  Bad for sledding, GREAT for house building.  Thanks, Mother Nature!

Our last post left you with a view of the below-grade poured walls, with the north wing of the house begging to rise up and show its new form.  Ta-Da!


What we’re calling the “Pavilion” (in other words, the addition – in blue, above) and the rehabilitated (and somewhat expanded) Summer Kitchen (center building to the left of the Pavilion, above) are all framed up and connected!  First, they started on the floor structure which ties into the Big House for one unified first floor level .


Then, up went the walls.  The framers actually framed, sheathed, and insulated these sections on the ground and then raised the whole unit as one:


It’s like a very complicated barn raising!  Taking advantage of some new insulating techniques, our house has a rigid foam insulation on the exterior, house wrap, and then the spray-foam insulation will be applied after all of the trades complete rough-in.  Placing a layer of insulation on the exterior of the vapor barrier will hopefully help prevent any mold-inducing condensation from occurring inside the wood framing of our walls.  For maximum coverage, the entire interior will also get a course of spay foam insulation.  We should be nice and sealed up (or, as sealed up as a new-old house can be).

Finally, the walls are up, and you can see the small second story addition (our new closet) taking shape:


The roof for the Pavilion was framed on the ground and then a crane placed it and the other roofing trusses in place:




Next came the curved entry called an “exedra”. Think of this like one half of a clam shell above the door.  We straight up stole this from good ol’ Thomas Jefferson and we feel no shame.  For more about Pavilion IX, the T.J. structure that inspired our Pavilion, look here.   The framers told me that they had previously done an arched entry, a curved wall, and a dome, respectively, but they had never done all three at once!


They nailed it!  Here is a view from the inside:


This magnificent room will be the hub of our family life: the kitchen.  A staircase will descend from to the right corner of the above picture (currently boxed off for safety) down into the basement.

Work has also been ongoing in the original portion of the Big House where we are remodeling one the ten original rooms (the only one that had already been remodeled before).  Originally, this upstairs room contained a back staircase and a smaller bedroom, but in 1952 the stairs were removed and a bathroom was installed on the second floor (no more chamber pots or late night outhouse excursions! Luxury!).

We are taking that room and dividing it into two bathrooms, one en suite to the master bedroom and one hall bath/laundry combo for the twins.  We are so very happy we will be keeping the other nine rooms of the Big House virtually identical to their original form, but we had to have some upstairs bathrooms, y’all (and do you REMEMBER what that existing bathroom looked like?  Frat-tastic).

During our demo, we found this amazing architectural ghost of the old back stairs, and you can just see how those risers clipped the frame of the door below (see the diagonal line in the top right trim?), and how good of a job they did in matching that trim when the stairs were removed.


And here is a shot of the staircase peeking down from the second story; those stairs were quite narrow!  Suck it in!


Last, I will leave you with what may be our favorite find to date.  I was removing some old sheets of particle board “flooring” in the attic in preparation for the vacuum removal of the dirty old cellulose insulation, when I stumbled upon this scrap of paper.  It was dark.  I picked it up and put it in my pocket.  The next day I remembered it, retrieved it, and was amazed.

The stamps read “Confederate States”, and this envelope is addressed to Capt. James Beale, 14th Regiment Va [illegible], Jenkins Brigade [illegible].


You. Guys.  James Madison Hite Beale is thought to have BUILT Edge Hill circa 1840!  This is concrete proof tying him to the house!  We have no idea how it survived, but it is a great find and we are excited to add it to our treasure trove of house history (we also have an original signature from JMH Beale, but admittedly we bought that on eBay).  We keep saying we are at the end of our treasure-finding days, but who knows what will turn up next!

Until our next post, I’ll leave you with our new favorite view on the farm, which is shot from the window in our future mudroom (just imagine that pile of dirt is some fresh sod, that’s what we do!):



Still Below Grade

Over the past month, there hasn’t been a lot of visual progress at the site, but here is a quick update.  The basement work is a “go slow and get it right” affair, and since we’ve been planning this project for years, we aren’t in any rush – especially where waterproofing is concerned!  The Cliff’s Notes are the we still have a big hole (“No go down there, not safe!”, as Cora would say), but our basement is taking shape.

The black forms that you see below are a product called Form-A-Drain, which combines concrete forms and drainage in one nice package.  They will stay in place for good as one element of our waterproofing plan for this basement space.


The concrete footers were poured and then work began to form up the walls of the basement.  This work took time, as the forms are heavy and must be buttressed (see below on the left) and the rebar must be installed prior to the pour.  Below on the right you can see the intersection of the new basement with the foundation of the original Summer Kitchen.  There have been several conversations about getting this right, as it will be a key weak point in making the basement water-tight.

The kitchen pavilion will feature an entryway that curves inward, and below in the center you can see that foundation wall beginning to take its “U” shape:




And . . . drumroll please . . . the forms are down!:


Climbing down in the hole and finally experiencing the scale of the basement gave great perspective; we are so glad we added the windows to bring in some natural light.

On the exterior you can see the green spray-applied waterproofing membrane, as well as the insulation which will help climatize the space:


This picture is taken from the “true front” of the house – you can see the summer kitchen, smoke house, and the Little House in the background.

Also, we had our first real “change order” after our builder suggested we could easily add a 10×10 storage room under a future porch that will run along the Summer Kitchen’s north wall.  Below, about half of the space you see with the new footers was in the original plan, as that is where the exterior stairs go down into the basement (that big gap will be double french doors).  The back half of the space was originally just going to be back filled and under a porch with some foundation work, but for less than $1,000.00 we decided make it a useable exterior storage room.  That’s our kind of change order!


So . . . still below grade, but the flooring system is on order, and over the next month we can’t wait to see our plans rise above grade!



After commenting enviously on a friend’s post showing off a beautifully completed kitchen addition, she responded that at least we had #started . . . and so we have!

The selective demolition discussed in our last post progressed for about a week as the crew carefully detached the addition from the Big House and Summer Kitchen in preparation for teardown.  Here you can see the kitchen in the Big House, in which we so excitedly prepared our first hotplate-and-toaster oven meal at Edge Hill, now fully detached from the original portion of the Big House:



Above, you can see the original peak of the roof and then the addition with it’s nonconforming brick.  This addition housed the added downstairs bathroom at Edge Hill.  Of note is the door you can see at the bottom of the picture under that bathroom addition, which leads down into the creepy-crawly crawl space (SO MANY WOLF SPIDERS).  You’ll see that space a little later on!

Finally, the Summer Kitchen was fully detached as well, which revealed the full extent of decay in that structure.  One portion of the solid brick interior wall collapsed during demolition, and the remainder and a portion of the exterior wall has been removed as well:


Time for the big toys to do some heavy lifting.  Cora and Caroline were particular fans of this excitement (from a distance).  Digger Digger Digger!

Our project at Edge Hill has always been a family affair, and thanks to some skilled cousins manning that equipment, those now-separated structures came down fast!  Debris cleanup also went quickly and soon we were down to the dirt (see below: the Little House on the far left, the smoke house in the middle, and the separated Summer Kitchen on the right):


…and it was time to start digging all the way down:


Immediately in our path was one of the house’s old cisterns (there are two!), which had to be fully excavated (see the pit at the bottom of the above picture).  It was hand dug, lined with brick, and parged.  What a monumental task building it must have been.   Now that it is removed, we will have to fill the resulting hole with some concrete slurry, so it is an actual money pit!  Haha!


What a great perspective!  On the right, you can see the foundation of that creepy crawly crawl space, day-lit and home to thousands of spiders no more!  The cistern went down below our final basement grade (in the far right in this corner) . . . man, that sucker was DEEP!  Cora and Caroline have had so much fun playing in the dirt of their future playroom!  They are particular fans of the “muddy puddles”.

In the demolition process, we were left with a cross section of the Summer Kitchen, which we will tie back into our new addition.  I’ve been so impressed at the work of the selective demolition in safely separating the portion of the structure that will be saved from the portion that had to come down.

The basement level of the Summer Kitchen, originally a root cellar, then a boiler room, will be repurposed as a wine cellar (one day).  The kitchen space on the main level of the Summer Kitchen will be a multipurpose room and will physically look much the same as it did upon construction, minus the kitchen furnishings.  We are still deciding if we will maintain the board ceiling above the kitchen space, or if we will remove the board sheeting (leaving the beams) so that when you stand in the space you can see all the way up to the ceiling.  Decisions. Decisions.

And now, a teaser of things to come . . . Footers have been formed up!


We’ve officially #started !

…and We’re Back

Y’all.  We know we haven’t posted in over a year.  We know you have missed our ramblings and photographs of mostly-destroyed things.  We know many of you have wondered if we are throwing in the towel. We. Know.

So, without further ado, feast your eyes upon a sight that made ours well up with tears:

See that big gaping hole on the left?!  Let’s look at that from yesterday’s viewpoint:

For the last year we’ve been waiting for this day.  Rachel and I set out to find a contractor who we felt could appreciate our scope of work, priorities, and who wouldn’t be afraid to question our decisions when he/she felt their experience was leading them to a decision contrary to our initial plans.  Enter Jim Herr.  We met some really great folks in bidding process, but in the end we chose Jim because from the start he offered insight and a perspective on our project that seemed to be the best fit for us.  This meant at one point “going back to the drawing board” and making some changes to our proposed plans to accommodate what Jim had determined we wanted…and we are grateful that his thoughtful consideration of our plans lead him to suggest changes we know will make this project all the better for us in the long term.  And that he made those suggestions before lifting a hammer (or drafting a change order)!

Today was Jim’s first day on the job, and this phase is being termed “selective demolition”.  This is the process of physically detaching the house portion of the Big House and Summer Kitchen structure from the addition that was built to connect those two original buildings.  We know as far back as the 1940s there was an open-air breeze way that connected the Big House to the Summer Kitchen, and we suspect it had been there all along.  In this picture from circa February 1965, you can see an arial shot of the Edge Hill from the front, complete with breezeway (below, it is the one-story portion that extends off the right of the house):

…and in the following picture of the rear of the house, you can catch a glimpse of the breezeway to the left:

Over the years, the breezeway was expanded by our predecessors into a precursor of the modern “open concept” living, kitchen, and dining area:

Here and below, you can see how the breezeway was enclosed and expanded. Today’s demolition provided a great cross-section, showing how they merged the old with the new:

On the right of the picture above is the roof of the original breezeway, and then shedding off to the left is the expansion that roofed over the living and dining space.  Here is a close up of that original breezeway roof structure:

Unfortunately there were some structural problems developing in this area and our plans called for a complete re-design of this transitional space.

This choice was one of our big struggles.  We loved the classic look of the simple breeze way connecting the Big House to the Summer Kitchen.  As you likely remember from history class, early kitchens were housed in separate buildings to minimize the risk of fire in the main house, and often a breezeway such as ours served as a somewhat sheltered path from the kitchen to the house. We thought about reverting back to this open-air walkway for aesthetics, but we couldn’t imagine ourselves cooking and eating in a building that is so removed from the rest of our living area (not to mention trucking over there in all seasons and weather).  Even if we climatized it, we felt it would still be too removed from where the rest of our living will happen – we’d need an intercom to call the kids to dinner.  We explored the idea of not having the kitchen over there, but we couldn’t imagine trying to fit a modern kitchen into the historic Big House.  So, at the end of the day, we decided to re-imagine this liminal space into our dream kitchen “pavilion”, which will connect to the Big House and to the Summer Kitchen by two hyphen structures that resemble the small dependency on the south side of the house.

Here is a view of the enclosed breezeway from the back side (looking through the screen you can catch a glimpse of the portico on the Big House that faces the river) where the previous owners tied the expanded breezeway (through the gap in the middle of the picture), Summer Kitchen (on the right), and a large screened-in area all together, anchored around a large chimney:


And this is a shot from the front, looking through the expanded breezeway to the screened in porch (waaaay in the back).  That chimney is going to shake the ground when it comes down!

Opening this area up also re-opened a space long inaccessible at Edge Hill.  The Summer Kitchen has an attic/loft and the access to that space was closed in by the addition of the screened-in porch area:

Re-opening that space yielded a treasure trove of stored items, including 4 screen doors, an original full-size interior door complete with hardware, half of a missing closet door pair with hardware, completing a set we had thought lost, and some great lengths of baseboard.  Jack. Pot.  Below you can see an closet door pair in the Big House that was missing its “other half”.  All of the built-ins in the house came in quartets, and one of the other doors in the quartet was also repurposed in that very room, so we knew we were likely missing a small door: 

And below you an see a lonely repurposed door, which can now be reunited with its long-lost match!  We plan to reincorporate those doors into a built-in in this very room, getting them as close as we can guess to back to where they were originally installed.

Today was the first step in our next big adventure, and we hope you are able to enjoy the ride with us!

Helllloooo World! Meet the Little House’s Kitchen.

Over the past year, you may have thought that we had raised the white flag of surrender on our project at Edge Hill.  We left you with two babies on the way, busy careers, and a glimpse at a finished bathroom.  In the midst of the chaos of becoming parents to two beautiful girls, we did let a few things slide, like laundry (thanks for the help, Mom!), exercise (we’ll get plenty chasing the girls, right?), and, unfortunately, blogging.  We have, however, taken the past year to make the Little House our home, and we couldn’t be more happy with the result.

The next series of blog posts will go in-depth, room-by-room, to detail our design choices and give those of you enjoying the blog from afar a good idea of how we have set the place up.  Without further ado, the kitchen, in all of it’s panoramic glory:



As you may recall, the main existing design feature of the kitchen is the massive, 5ft x 5ft fireplace with working swing arm.  After some intense restoration, see the full transformation:




Let’s see that process in slow-motion.  First, repair the physical structure of the fireplace, replace the deteriorated brick with firebrick, install dampeners:



Then, excavate the old hearth so a new hearth can be poured.



Frame up the house.  IMG_0392

Add some paint, logs, open the dampers and light a match.  Bam.  Jackson approved.




A shout out to local weather forecasters, the Columbia Furnace Storm Team, who we track with great fervor during the winter so we can ensure a full rack of wood is in, dry, and ready to warm our quiet snow days at home.

We’ve already detailed the decisions of using pine salvaged from the original floor joists for our cabinets and soapstone for the countertops. The main run of cabinets is all function, featuring a built in butcher block, efficient gas range and hood (bought used), large farm sink, dish drawer, and fridge.


Looking closer, for the range we installed a simple and relatively cheap sheet of stainless steel as a backsplash, and added a stainless shelf to arrange our collection of measuring cups and stash the salt and pepper so it is always close at hand.


At the top of the open shelves we added an electrical outlet so we can blast the tunes during marathon cooking sessions, and the shelves to the left of the range hold our most-used pots and cookbooks.  Ina Garten features heavily, and right now we are also trying out some of the recipes from the Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman.  Our go-to for all things classic and comforting is the America’s Test Kitchen New Best Recipe cookbook.  A pot filler was not a “must” for our kitchen, as the range is pretty close to the sink, but we did spring for it and it is great to have a second water source in the kitchen, especially on busy weeknights when one of us is busy washing up the day’s bottles and the other is trying to cook some pasta.


A concession to a lack of drawer storage, we have two crocks divided into wood and stainless that hold our go-to utensils. To the right of the range, we installed a pull-out solution for our smaller skillets and pots, as we hate digging through drawers or shelves to find what we want.  Conveniently, large cutting boards also fit nicely to either side of the pullout.


For the kitchen faucet, we found a fixture that resembled an old water pump reimagined in chrome.  A hand sprayer came with this model, and it is a great accompanyment to washing up in the extra large sink.


We went with a smaller dishwashing drawer to maximize space in the kitchen, and reserved the shelves just above the dishwasher to store our everyday dishes.  For our pantry, we found a wonderful old cabinet at Burt Long’s Antiques.


It dates from about the 1820s and was our big splurge.  It is the perfect size for the space, and for overflow we have another set of shelves in our utility closet.  IMG_0657

Rounding out the kitchen, our secondary bank of cabinets holds the remainder.  Baking, Mixing, Appliances, dish towels, etc. We designed this station with integrated power and for the microwave and with a pull out shelf for our coffee machine and toaster, as we prefer not to have those appliances hanging out on our very limited counter space.



With some careful planning, we have our dream kitchen.  I bet you thought we couldn’t cram anything else in, but we still have one last detail on the way.


See that large blank spot on the wall to the right of the doorway?  Rachel’s Uncle Skip, recently retired, has taken up woodworking and has custom built us the perfect addition to our kitchen: a platter rack!


Skip recently finished this project, and just this weekend it will make the trek from Texas to Virginia.  We can’t wait to get it installed!

We know we’ve left you hanging over the past year, so here are some pics of us enjoying our kitchen.  It won’t be another year for the next post, we promise!







Until next time, enjoy the view!



Mastering the Bath

All-  We feel like we owe a little explanation or two for the belated nature of this update.  Our loyal readers have been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for the next blog update, and we’ve been a bit delinquent!  Well, let’s cut to the chase. Edge Hill is about to go from sheltering a family of two to sheltering a family of four!  That’s right, Rachel is pregnant, and not being ones to do anything the easy way, it just so happens to be twin girls!


This is a shot from our first ultrasound way back in March, and it’s the one we keep showing to anyone who will take a gander.  We are now over halfway through our term, and are looking forward to meeting the girls in late August! 




Due to the pregnancy, we were stopped in our tracks with the last of the major efforts left to wrap up the Little House:  painting.  With the fumes, it is recommended to steer clear of this chore for the first trimester at least, and to be honest, we were ready for a convenient excuse to take a break!  The break, however, is over. Time to get back to work. The next series of posts will hopefully walk you through the finished rooms of the Little House, detailing our choices.  We are starting with the Master Bath, the only full bath in the house.  In our past decade or so of life, living through college rooming situations and our first house with its TINY (but nevertheless en suite) master bath, we may have gone a bit overboard on square footage this time. After living with it, however, we can say we have absolutely no regrets!  If you recall from our Sketch-Up designs, the master bath takes up about 1/5 of the upstairs square footage, and is accessed via the closets that adjoin each bedroom (bottom, center):



This is a far cry from the “original” bath-and-kitchen combo that was part of the 1940s first-floor addition to the Little House:




Yes.  Just under the sink you can see a little patch of green grass.  That is where the water and septic leaked and the floor and wall had completely deteriorated.  There was no shower or bathtub.  Full. Demo. Required.

We moved the full bath to the new upstairs addition, and designed a spacious room with two independent vanities.  We also incorporated the restored clawfoot tub that we discussed in the last post, a large walk-in shower, linen closet, and water closet.  Everything in its place.

We started with five feet of bead board and then painted the upper walls and ceiling in Washington Blue from Benjamin Moore’s Williamsburg Collection.  The deep navy blends the walls into the ceiling and gives the room a great feel.


The floors are a ceramic tile we found at a surplus auction, and just so happen to be LEED certified.  We really liked the color so we bought a whole skid and used that tile in the downstairs mudroom, powder room, and utility closet, as well!  We went with a mushroom-grey grout, which provides a nice contrast and will also hopefully age well.

For the vanities, we used porcelain tops that we found dirt cheap at the contractor’s auction, and commissioned custom-designed bases after doing some serious Pinterest research.  The bases are constructed from old pine that was salvaged from the house when we did the demo.   We matched the vanity with a medicine cabinet we found TWO Black Fridays ago (that’s right folks, we’ve been sourcing since 2013), also dirt cheap, at the Restoration Hardware Outlet: $75.00 for the pair!



The vanities are nice and simple, and great for hiding all the crap that would usually live out on the sink deck:



Luckily we thought to measure the clearance of the vanity door in relation to the sconce, but we still cut it close!

As you saw before, the tub is a great shade of Tucker Orange from Benjamin Moore’s Williamsburg Collection, which we paired with some custom-painted oars and full length curtains and sheers that emphasize the high ceiling height of the bathroom:


For the tub, we are very excited to have incorporated a hand shower; it is as if fate knew we would need an extra-efficient baby washing station:


The interior wall of the bathroom starts on the left with our shower, the linen closet in the center, and the water closet on the right.  The access hatch to the attic HVAC is located above the linen closet and painted the same shade of blue to blend in with the walls and ceilings.



One priority for the shower was to incorporate a LARGE area to organize all of the bottles that seem to multiply in the shower as time goes on.  We were also contemplating adding a bench, but found a great garden stool online in our orange that fit the bill nicely, so we saved a bit of money and axed the bench.  Down the road we would really like to add a seamless glass door, but as a feature that was entirely discretionary, we decided to save our pennies and spend them elsewhere at the outset.



Because the shower stall is large and we like the subway-tile look, we used large-format subway tile, which was economical and “easy” to install (easy, that is, for our contractors – we have not yet tried our hand at tiling).  The floors and back of the niche are tiled in small stone, and we did spring for the anti-microbial grouting on the floor so hopefully we will be mold-free for years to come.

The linen closet might not be magazine-ready, but it is oh-so useful!  The key feature of this closet is the laundry shoot that you can see right in the middle of the back wall.  With our very small interior staircases, we have found no end to our happiness in having this simple solution for lugging our laundry down the stairs.  For the return trip, we got small cloth totes that are easier to manage on the stairs than a regular laundry basket. We lined the rest of the linen closet’s available wall space with shelves and incorporated automatic lighting so the lights are only on when the doors are open, a nice energy-saving feature.



Moving to the right, the water closet was the one bit of the bathroom where we were able to save the exposed brick walls:IMG_3195

We also used a motion sensing light/fan combo, as this means the lights stay on when the doors close.  The unit runs on a timer, so the lights and fan shut down automatically after the space is vented to save power.  IMG_3197

Finally, one of Chad’s favorite features is the magazine/TP combo rack he found on Amazon.  The water closet doesn’t have a lot of extra room, so this was the perfect solution for a back-up roll and some storage.

The bath is accented with a few nautical touches, including a whimsical octopus towel holder by the shower and cheap boat cleat towel hooks that Chad painted to match the tub:


The bathroom is now a relaxing sanctuary where we start and end our days, and though we still have some plans for finishing touches we couldn’t be happier with the finished product!