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When the Vargo parents dropped into town last weekend to help knock out our to-dos (and oh boy, did we have to-dos!), they also brought with them a new addition for our home: another Grandma Chair.

Last year, you might remember the evolution of my grandmother’s chair – a wedding gift to my grandparents over sixty years ago and passed down to us. (This was the result of losing my grandpa, and my gram downsized to a condo.) It’s one of my favorite material possessions in our home, entirely due to the fact that anything tied to my grandparents makes it a shiny, gleaming symbol of happiness. (I could just cry, I love them so much.)

This year, we lost Scott’s grandma. I always knew her as a strong and spunky woman, enjoying a Manhattan at every family gathering and dressed to the nines. This woman had style, you guys. While I know Scott would have loved to write this post, we ultimately decided that it should be me – if only because lately, we so rarely have time together in the evenings (the only time he could sit down to write). So when I called him to ask if there was anything he’d like me to include for Grandma, he spoke highly of her eye for design. She lived in a fashionable home, and fond holiday memories revolved around this well-dressed home (which only makes sense for such a colorful, well-dressed woman, don’t you think?), filling up on her casseroles and trying to come back with a retort quick enough for her smart wit and humor.

Like the chair I have that reminds me of two of the people I love most in this world, we now have another chair in our repertoire – this time, a sweet symbol of Scott’s Grandma Betty.

You might also remember that Scott’s aunt and uncle were the owners of a Cincinnati based antique shop, and they were able to tell us about the chair itself – this press back chair, actually.

When carving ornate designs into chairs no longer became practical and cost effective, the steel die stamp was developed, which literally pressed the design from its metal plate into the wood of the chair. This created the illusion of carved wood (allowing retailers to boast hand carved wood!), while allowing reproductions to be limitless. (We were clearly fascinated by this; you can see a lot more right here.)

The chair is actually tiny (we assume this is because we used to much smaller, in general), it’s braced with those adorable metal straps, and there’s a character line through the seat where it cracked – just a little.

There are no plans for this chair, other than to let it be. It’s beautiful as-is, just as it was in Grandma’s home.

  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - August 1, 2013 - 8:43 AM

    Oh! This just about brought a tear to my eye thinking about Aaron’s grandma. She is the sweetest, spunkiest woman I know. I’ve basically fallen head over heels for her and pretty much claim her as my own. It sounds like you had a similar connection with Scott’s grandma :)

    What a sweet memento that will totally work in your new, bigger space. Any plans to change it or are you just loving the charm as is?ReplyCancel

  • Kim - August 1, 2013 - 8:49 AM

    Heather, grandmas are the best, aren’t they? No plans to change this chair – we think it’s perfect.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Ryan - August 1, 2013 - 9:03 AM

    Kim~
    You continue to inspire me with your sweetness! What a great tribute to Betty!
    Much Love,
    CarolReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ Our Humble Abode - August 1, 2013 - 2:35 PM

    Such a sweet tradition you’ve started. So many memories are linked to pieces, so it’s nice to have that daily reminder of a loved one. Even better that these items are beautiful and full of character.

    I’ve got a bookshelf from my great grandparents and a tiny rocking chair that was my mom’s when she was a child.ReplyCancel

  • ann - August 1, 2013 - 3:53 PM

    Thank you Kim for the special thoughts. I know Mom is happy that you and Scott will enjoy the chair so much. Now I must get a tissue!ReplyCancel

  • Julia @cuckoo4design - August 6, 2013 - 1:14 AM

    I wish I could take my grandmother’s chair with me to the US too, I have to pick smaller things to bring from Germany. Love that you have the chairs.ReplyCancel

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There are so many things that go into making this a livable home that, quite honestly, are just not exciting. Especially since this is a home that was once used as a rental property for the last 20-some years. Because our house wasn’t owned by the seller himself (at least, this is our theory), we’ve found that many of the projects we’ve been tackling lately are simply getting this place up to snuff – a home that someday, we’ll feel comfortable walking around in barefoot (as opposed to our constant state of slippers and flip flops). While the first level of this two-flat was (sort of) kept up – from what we can tell – with a floor mopping every now and then, the second level was not. The yard has been uncared for, and the garage (and back deck and front porch) was definitely an afterthought.

The last week or so has been us handling the most mundane of tasks – tasks that are no fun, but they need to get done so this house will start feeling right. It’s for these reasons that so many of the items we’ve been checking off the to-do list absolutely, under no circumstances, require their own glorified post. We’ve put down the sledgehammers for now, and over the past weekend, Scott’s parents stayed with us to brave our list of omg, we have no more energy to finish this and turned it into done, done and done.

Between the four of us and our cousin Matthew (who drove down from Milwaukee to lend a hand!), our weekend looked like this: run to Home Depot for supplies, really clean and set-up the second floor bathroom, weed the lawn, trim back tree branches, create storage in the garage, scrub and unpack the kitchen, run to Home Depot again, replace damaged lattice, pressure wash the house and deck and patio (at least one round of many), run to Home Depot again (f@!#), fix a broken lock, and clean, clean, clean.

The truth is, it’s the culmination of all these things – these unglamorous tasks that even our DIY-loving selves would rather skip – that make all the difference. (A lot of) little things.

While the parents were in town, we did, however, take time to enjoy meals outside of the house, take ice cream breaks and spend the evenings over glasses of wine and bottles of Spotted Cow (hands down, my favorite beer!). We fell into bed each night so exhausted and happy. It’s just too bad the trip was so short lived, not only because we love having them around, of course, but holy cow having 10 hands on deck beats 2 any day.

Now, we’re reviewing quotes from general contractors, HVAC specialists and window repairmen. We’re nixing wish-we-coulds off the list until we can squirrel away more moolah, and we’re staring at our finances for far too long, deciding on what needs to happen right now (the ceiling!) and what can wait (the laundry room addition). And while we’re not exactly to the point of picking out appropriately sized area rugs (I could stare at rugs all day long; like, it’s a problem), we are excited to shop for a larger studio desk, build whole storage rooms and pin someday-ideas to our hearts’ content.

Fellow old-home-fixer-uppers (or just good ol’ fashioned home-lovers): what’s been your least favorite to-do?

  • Christine @ Little House On The Corner - July 31, 2013 - 6:52 AM

    You’ve just described our exact situation. Our house was so dirty that the windows wouldn’t open because they were so sticky! We’ve been in the house for 3 years now and have cleaned multiple times, but I still won’t use the bath because I know what it uses to look like!ReplyCancel

  • Giuli - July 31, 2013 - 8:38 AM

    Wow!! I’m exhausted reading this but I can sympathize. My husband and I went through the same thing with our home 10 years ago. It was a rental property as well and not loved at all. We bought the worst house on the best street and after a few years, it fits right in. Needless to say the neighbors were very happy. Good Luck and don’t forget to Have fun too!!ReplyCancel

  • Anna K - July 31, 2013 - 9:02 AM

    Sanding drywall mud! It is the WORST! The dust gets everywhere and it is impossible to sweep up!ReplyCancel

  • jackie - July 31, 2013 - 9:33 AM

    You guys rock!!! I can’t wait to see your place evolve!ReplyCancel

  • Laura at Rather Square - July 31, 2013 - 9:37 AM

    We too are in the stage of “must get fixed vs. want to make pretty” decisions. Things we have done that have not been super fun are: cleaning a raccoon nest out of the garage, killing weeds, bleaching the basement floor, and filling all the cracks in the stucco exterior. I will be posting about that last one soon, but the others are just a little too unpleasant to recount.ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly @ Turning It Home - July 31, 2013 - 10:00 AM

    Right now, my least favorite to do is working outside (it can get miserable during Florida summers) and painting (more like keeping the kids away from wet paint and cleaning up the mess), but after reading this… I think I have it easy compared to your to-do’s. Keep on trekking on, it will all be worth it later on!ReplyCancel

  • Jaimie - July 31, 2013 - 10:47 AM

    I’m right there with you. There are so many things that need to get done, and not enough time or money to do them all RIGHT NOW, so things are getting prioritized by what’s most urgent to make the house liveable (such as ceiling fans and storage).

    Our seller only rented our house out for a year, but it was a hot mess. And he lied to us about making it move in ready after the tenants left (since when does move in ready not mean removes nails/screws in the walls, patch holes, and touch up paint??)

    I’ve been pulling nails, screws, and upholstery staples out of the walls for longer than I care to admit. UPHOLSTERY STAPLES. That is my least favorite task, pulling those out of the wall without damaging it.

    I would estimate there are probably over a thousand holes in the walls that aren’t filled. And I found out that all of the interior paint peels from the walls if you pick at it. *sigh*ReplyCancel

  • Kim - July 31, 2013 - 11:02 AM

    Kimberly – thank goodness it wasn’t hot this past weekend! It was actually a little chilly, so at least we weren’t sweating to death.

    Jaimie, SAME! Everything in this house was adhered to the walls with staples or caulk. EVERYTHING. Medicine cabinets were installed with NO SCREWS. Just caulk. Crazy. Good luck with your staple-pulling adventures. We’re right there with you!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - July 31, 2013 - 11:49 AM

    Dry walling the basement was my least favorite. I spent an entire winter muddying, sanding, scraping, and priming in a poorly ventilated area. You’ll start to hit that point where rooms start to look livable and you’ll get a second wind. Other times you just have to stay in bed for a week and watch Twin Peaks or Buffy on streaming and refill your tank. :)ReplyCancel

  • Julie - July 31, 2013 - 12:12 PM

    Oh how heavenly to have so much help even if for just a short time! I don’t envy you all these projects, but the mundane will add up to beautiful and satisfying at the end (is there ever an end to house projects?).

    My least favorite project of all time was removing all the lawn from our backyard with our two shovels, then shaving 6 inches off uneven dirt off the top of the whole backyard, shovel by shovel full in 90 degree heat. I distinctly remember looking down at a trickle of sweat down my tummy, that made a clean streak on my disgustingly dirty skin. Yes, I had to go ghetto and wear a bathing suit top to do yard work–it was SO HOT!

    You guys are doing great–love watching all your progress and if we lived in your town, you know we’d be helping!ReplyCancel

  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - July 31, 2013 - 12:48 PM

    Any kind of yard work gets a thumbs down from me. I think a lot of things contribute to placing that last on the list. It’s always harder and hotter and sweatier than I expect, and the results usually aren’t instant. Planting a tree = waiting years for it to grow. Painting a wall = instantly done.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - July 31, 2013 - 12:59 PM

    Julie, we wish you guys were here! We have so many “Jim Jobs” that we’re sure Brian would know how to fix :D

    Heather, I’m not a fan of yard work either. I’m thinking that’s going to need to change soon though!ReplyCancel

  • jenn - July 31, 2013 - 4:27 PM

    just wanted to say i am in awe of you guys. my husband and i just bought a hundred year old house a few months ago that was a very soft flip (white painted wood paneling EVERYWHERE), and we haven’t had the time or money to do just about anything we really want to it. your recent posts have been inspiring and give me hope (=ReplyCancel

    • Kim - July 31, 2013 - 4:43 PM

      Jenn, you can do it! You can do it!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - July 31, 2013 - 7:04 PM

    Stripping away old flaky grout in our master bath so we could lay down fresh new caulk took way longer than I thought, but was also pretty satisfying to do myself!

    Good call on the Spotted Cow – we had it at our wedding! ;)ReplyCancel

  • Helen - July 31, 2013 - 11:08 PM

    The multiple trips to Home Depot in one day (sometimes one afternoon) sounds oh so familiar and yes it is frustrating. Every time we end a project, I alway say f it! Next time I’m hiring someone! But I always find myself picking up a hammer and DIY. You guys have such good taste I can’t wait to see it when done!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - August 5, 2013 - 10:27 PM

    So fun!! Mom & Pop Vargo are soooo cute too :) Can’t wait to see this in person some day [SOON I hope]!ReplyCancel

  • louize - August 17, 2013 - 2:22 PM

    Oh I can so relate to the endless list of must do’s before the fun do’s… I have spent every weekend this summer pulling 80 years and 5 layers of wallpaper off every wall in my “new” apartment, often with sections of wall crumbling with the paper. I finally finished today. Now the plasterers can finish rebuilding the walls and I should get to start the fun stuff soon… although paying for the essentials – complete rewiring, major plumbing and changing all the windows has left me too broke for any other major projects for a while yet!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 19, 2013 - 10:12 AM

      Louize – we know the feeling! Once you get the more “boring” projects out of the way, it’s hard to find the moolah for the fun things! Best of luck with your transformation!ReplyCancel

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First! Ten million thank yous to our wonderful, gracious house guests: Kalli, Julia, Jillian, Heather, Rob, Jodi, Meg, Rex and Julie (whew!). We sincerely hope you enjoyed “meeting” some of our closest friends and blog favorites. We couldn’t have gotten as much done as we did without them, and for that, we owe ’em. Big time. Now, while we were out…

We survived Moving Day!

For the first time in our adult lives, we hired movers, realizing that we’re past the point of luring in our friends with beer and pizza. Everything arrived in one piece, safely. The hit to our wallet felt minimal when you considered the hours we saved, allowing us to dive into unpacking/organization mode by lunch time.

The unfortunate timing of our move vs. construction projects, however, still has us pulling clothes from boxes, digging through bins for coffee filters and has us running up and down the stairs for soap, toothbrushes and hairspray. (On a side note, we are not used to stairs yet! But it’s oddly fun, too.) Not much can really be put away; until we replace ceilings and level floors (just a small hiccup!), we’re unable to build storage, reassess layouts or even paint a wall. We’re in limbo, but even though our home is a wreck of cardboard and misplaced furniture, it’s exhilarating! We’re here! And with only a few lovers’ quarrels thrown in for a good measure. Not bad.

But let’s back up.

In the days leading up to the move, we drafted a mega-list of to-dos, including: scrubbing the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, calling in the exterminator (uh, yeah, ew), and completing one more dusty, dirty demo task – the second floor partition. It had to go. It was crooked, unnecessary and divided the floor that would no longer make sense for the future studio (eee!). Remember? After pulling down the drywall and exposing the chimney, it looked like this:

Now, it looks like this:

So big! So much light!

In about 45 minutes, we pulled down all the remaining studs (saving most of them, just like the entryway studs) – none of which were load bearing, thank goodness – including that super crooked door “frame.” After another contractor came out for a quote, he gave us the go ahead to do this ourselves, saving us just a bit more money off the bottom line.

Once we had a clear space, we filmed this clip, showing just how un-level the second floor really is. For weeks, we’ve been joking that if we lost anything – be it Jack’s kong, bobby pins or keys – it would only be a matter of time before it rolled to the middle. (Yes, it’s so bad, that on moving day, one of our moving crew put Skar against the wall, and it started slip, slip, slipping away.) And while it’s silly to talk about, you guys, it is not the most amusing to deal with. See the slope I’m kneeling on? The camera was resting flat on the ground; no artistic license was taken here.

After a handful of quotes, we know it’ll be several weeks before the issue is corrected – mostly due to busy contractor schedules. (Also, that big, ugly space heater needs to be capped off and proper HVAC installed.) You might remember that the sloping second floor ties in with our pulling down the first floor ceiling, so that’ll be weeks before it’s corrected, too. This is about the time where I need to remember patience – which, oddly enough, an old fortune from a cookie slipped from a box on moving day, and it read: Be patient. Rome was not built in a day.

I kid you not.

In other exciting news, we pulled up AstroTurf!

The second floor deck (right outside of our kitchen-turned-master-bedroom) was covered with the plastic grass, holding in years and years of dirt, grime and – just like everything in this home – a scent that could knock. you. out. So, that was exciting. (Really, it was!)

For every tiny step forward, we’re finding that this house is slowly (very, very slowly) turning into a home. (Like, very slowly. Drywall dust is still settling, the floors are being continually scrubbed, and shabby corners, thick paint and cracked windows are mocking us.) There’s still a lot to unpack, but with new walls, rooms and layouts, there will also be many, many things to purchase (new, second-hand or otherwise), build and create!

And that? That makes our hearts happy. (Or maybe that’s all the exhausted, end of the day nightcaps?)

  • Jodi - July 29, 2013 - 9:03 AM

    phew! i’m tired just reading about all that. good luck to you both!!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie - July 29, 2013 - 9:33 AM

    Looking better and better each day!ReplyCancel

  • Cait @ Hernando House - July 29, 2013 - 9:39 AM

    I totally second what Jodi said! haha

    It looks SO MUCH BETTER without that partition! Also, so funny about the fortune cookie fortune. I am the worst at having patience, so I can commiserate.ReplyCancel

  • Gloria - July 29, 2013 - 10:10 AM

    I can so relate to astro turf stink. I moved into my new house the weekend before last and had to deal with carpet on the front porch. Weirdest thing ever.

    Your place is looking so good! I love watching your progress without doing all of the work :)ReplyCancel

  • Rachael - July 29, 2013 - 10:21 AM

    I’m glad the weather was nice and cool this weekend for you-here’s to hoping it stays that way! And I bet the kitties love those stairs!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Adventures of a Dog Mom - July 29, 2013 - 11:24 AM

    Wow, you guys are just moving right along in this process, every time you post pics it just gets better and better!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - July 29, 2013 - 11:44 AM

    Gloria, what’s with the artificial grass? The smells. Oh, the smells!

    Thanks, guys. It really DOES look better without that partition! It’s so, so much bigger.ReplyCancel

  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - July 29, 2013 - 11:44 AM

    Yay progress!

    Ha! We also had to get used to stairs at the firehouse. We joke that it’s part of the ‘Firehouse diet.’ Mojo has definitely lost a few pounds thanks to the constant up and down. I haven’t noticed any weight loss, but I have gotten good at never walking up or down empty handedReplyCancel

  • Kim - July 29, 2013 - 11:52 AM

    Heather, aren’t stairs so weird to get used to? My childhood home didn’t have stairs either, so it seems like we have to climb a mountain for everything! We are, however, trying to get in the habit of never going up or down empty handed – as we continue to shuffle things around, it’s best to combine the “trip” with a small task.ReplyCancel

  • Julia @cuckoo4design - July 29, 2013 - 2:31 PM

    I’m so excited to see all this and it’s the harsh reality that Rome was not built in a day. I get mad when people tell me that LOL but I guess we all have to learn that lesson.
    Hope the furry kiddos are doing well too!ReplyCancel

  • Laura at Rather Square - July 29, 2013 - 2:34 PM

    Looks great! What is the wood like under the astroturf? Is it in good condition? We have a small deck with mostly rotted wood, I’m not looking forward to the process of tearing that down at some point.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - July 29, 2013 - 3:07 PM

    Julia, the girls are having a BLAST exploring all the new nooks, and Jack cannot get enough of the front porch. If we allowed him to, he’d sit on that porch all. day. long. It’s so heart warming to see how much they’re loving this home!

    Laura, the wood is great! However, the whole deck needs some work, but down the road, we’d love to tear it down and start over… but that’s a different phase for a different day.ReplyCancel

  • Christine @ Little House On The Corner - July 29, 2013 - 3:42 PM

    You must be so pleased that the partition is gone. I bet it makes a huge difference to the room. We just knocked down a wall between our kitchen and dining room and I can’t believe we didn’t do it much earlier! We’re still cleaning up brick dust though…ReplyCancel

  • Mercedes - July 29, 2013 - 6:49 PM

    I’m so looking forward to following your home adventures. We suffer from the slope issues in our 100+ year old farm house and will be paying close attention to your remedy and the ballpark cost. Yowza!ReplyCancel

  • Helen - July 30, 2013 - 12:59 AM

    Oh I love the exposed bricks! Will you keep?ReplyCancel

  • Kim - July 30, 2013 - 9:32 AM

    Christine, I just checked out your blog – WOW, that wall looks SO much better now that it’s down! Awesome.

    Helen, that’s the plan! As long as it’s not harming the house by being there, we plan on keeping it.ReplyCancel

  • Emma - July 30, 2013 - 12:52 PM

    Yeppers…hiring moving is definitely a sign that you are growing up. We hired our first movers 2 years ago. Buying mulch is another indicator of adulthood. Your new home looks great. And you’re so lucky to have your very own private deck!ReplyCancel

  • Agela - July 30, 2013 - 6:20 PM

    I’m so curious what this stink is or came from?! You are giving me serious itchy feet to get my flat in shipshape!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - July 31, 2013 - 9:05 AM

    Angela, from what we can tell, there were several pets that were using the carpets and plastic grass as their personal potty…ReplyCancel

  • Stairs! Done! | Bichona - October 20, 2014 - 8:03 PM

    […] the house (you might remember that our master bedroom – the ex-second-floor-kitchen – has a door), we wanted to tackle this project before the cold settled in, allowing us to use those back stairs […]ReplyCancel

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