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A Change of Door Plans (+ Let’s Fix This)

Let’s revisit the front door. After a few of you suggested that a single pane window transom paired with our address numbers would look stunning, it took us all of 5 seconds to think, you know what? You’re right. Yes! Done.

We were pointed in the direction of fellow DIY blog Old Town Home (we’re hooked, we’re hooked!), so I contacted them and asked them about their experience; who did your gold numbers? Are you happy? By the way, we love you! Alex responded almost immediately, dug through his archives to share with us their experience, and it was all the confirmation we needed to know we were heading in the right direction.

At this point, we wish we could say, and then the door was installed, painted and numbers applied. The end. But this is a 120-year-old+ house! There is no such talk around here.

The contractors have been in full swing, and every time I go downstairs to refill my coffee mug (and generally just to stand, agape, at the goings on), I’m greeted with so many changes. To quench my urge to just sit down there and watch, I’ve quietly been sitting at my (too small) desk with headphones on. But one day (we’ll call it Tuesday; yes, it was definitely Tuesday), I noticed Jack perched at the top of the steps, watching this:

The door! They were working on the front door! I quietly reminded myself to sit back down, Kim!, but it was lunchtime, so down the stairs I went… and my goodness.

The front door installation turned into a larger project than we had intended, due to a few factors:

  • The visible vinyl siding was buckling in a few areas, which was largely due to the poor insulation (or lack thereof). It seems as though the most recent door installation – prior to us – was done cheaply, ineffectively, and poorly.
  • While making room for the transom window, soggy insulation and rotting wood was discovered, so, that was fun.
  • The original wood siding was found underneath a layer of mid-century asphalt siding, and on top of that was the vinyl we have now. Rather than remove the old asphalt siding, vinyl was placed over it – which, as we’re sure you can guess, was the cheapest option.
  • Planks of wood were literally floating in place (above, to the right of the door opening). The contractors guessed that the front door may have originally been centered with sidelights on either side. (We’re thinking this had to have been gorgeous; right?) However, the replacement and repair of that former set up raises dollar signs, so it was simply boarded up.

Sadly, we’re unable to afford sidelights and the complete re-centering of the door (this would easily climb into the multiple thousands), however, since we’ve had to take down all those layers, we will be moving our new door to the right, which will allow the porch lights to be equal in distance from the (soon-to-be) new trim. Below, you can see our old/current door, and how it was installed with the porch lights during the Great Sidelight Cover-Up:

While we’re at it, proper insulation will be added before the vinyl is reattached (and the layers underneath will hit the curb), and we’re going to install a much taller transom window – 16″h instead of 12″ – which will not only look better, but will allow more light to pass through and make more sense overall. We’ve since decided on this Briona handleset in matte black, but we purchased it from Hardware Direct 2 U for a fraction of the price (we wondered how it could be so inexpensive, but it arrived fast and safe!).

As if all these changes won’t be impactful enough, we picked up our gallon of Hague Blue paint from Sherwin Williams (they keep the color combination for Farrow & Ball in their system) in addition to an adhesion promoter, and we’ll be purchasing our address numbers from The House Number Lab on Old Town Home’s recommendation (we’re leaning towards The Grant or The Americana in matte gold).

To say we’re excited about the changes would be an understatement – even despite the mounting costs of repairing the siding, water damage and porch-light-centering. In the end, it’s really important for us to get our curb appeal going, not just for us, but our new neighbors, too! We’re already daydreaming our springtime exterior jazz-up; flowers and grass and painted porches, you’re next! (Well, in 6 or 7 months.)

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  • Annalena10.10.13 - 6:05 AM

    That picture of Jack watching from the top of the stairs is too cute! I’m really enjoying reading about your crazy-big renovation. Can’t wait to see the final results!ReplyCancel

  • Shannon @ Fabulously Vintage10.10.13 - 6:49 AM

    Oooh love BOTH the Grant and Americana!! :) Excited to see what you pick!ReplyCancel

  • Kim10.10.13 - 8:17 AM

    Annalena, thank you! He is basically the cutest; we agree.

    Shannon, we can’t decide!ReplyCancel

  • Laura at Rather Square10.10.13 - 9:15 AM

    Even though things are in such disarray right now, I can totally see the potential and how it’s all going to come together. As usual, I’m impressed with your fortitude and vision! What a great learning process to go through. Can’t wait to see the new door finished!ReplyCancel

  • Sara10.10.13 - 11:36 AM

    They’re not period, fancy gold, but I went through a similar obsessive debate for the numbers on my 2-flat. I ended up getting white ones on etsy for like $10. So, if you’re looking for less costly option… I both do and don’t miss what you’re going through. You’ll get there though. All my friends thought I was crazy buying my building, but now I have an awesome, fully-rented home that they’re all jealous of. :)ReplyCancel

  • Alex - Old Town Home10.10.13 - 11:51 AM

    Thanks for the shout out, and so glad our experience was helpful for you (exactly why we blog, amiright?).

    It’s going to look great, that’s for sure.

    We are very happy with The Grant (style B with the whiskers), and I just noticed that our transom photo is on their example page for The Grant, I had no idea!

    If only we’d moved north after college (like the rest of our Cincinnati and Miami U friends) instead of east, we’d probably be in Chicago too, and I’d be headed over to your house with my tools to help you restore those side lights and re-center your front door. I’d trade you for a pet portrait or two. We could knock it out in two days, which in DIY speak is probably more like 3 months, and you’d have to live without a front door during that time. Is that cool with you? :-) But alas, we’re in DC, so I’ll watch your project from a distance and appreciate it all as it comes together.ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.10.13 - 12:19 PM

      Sara, we didn’t think of Etsy as a place to look! Great tip.

      Alex, I didn’t realize you guys were from Cincinnati too! We went to UC. And sadly there would be nothing to restore – the door and sidelights were taken out completely, to make way for the door we’re replacing. Although restoring a vintage one (from one of the MANY salvage shops in Chicago) would be fun – with HELP!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel10.10.13 - 1:15 PM

    Oh my gosh the transom-window-numbers idea is TOO AMAZING. It’s going to look incredible!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kim10.10.13 - 2:17 PM

    Love the window number idea! Just curious, will the outside steps look off center with the new centered door? Would they be hard to widen in the future?ReplyCancel

  • Kim10.10.13 - 4:08 PM

    Kim, great question! We’ll be centering the door in between the porch lights (not the entire bump out), so you’re right – it will be slightly off center of the stairs, but nothing too noticeable. Although, you’re also right that the steps are something we could certainly widen in the future… Thank you for the thought/suggestion!ReplyCancel

  • aussiebeachgirl10.10.13 - 7:43 PM

    Hi Kim. I’m liking The Grant and Helvetica B – for similarity in closeness of the letters, but I can see where you may go with The Americana. A lot of older properties here in Aus tend to have their door numbers in The Americana typeface. Returning the door to its original station may seem like a financial mountain to climb right now, but as far as investment and future peace of mind goes (you’ll always be looking at that door and wondering), I’d get it done. Consider the costs of your contractors doing the work, and weigh it up against Alex’s very generous offer, and I think you’ll find it cheaper to fund his trip to Chicago for the re-do, in return for his pet’s portrait! A win-win situation. :D Cheers, HxReplyCancel

    • Kim10.11.13 - 8:06 AM

      Aussie, all good points! Also like Helvetica B (well, in general we really love Helvetica all the time), so that’s another good option. Now if only we could get Alex up to Chicago this weekend…ReplyCancel

  • Allison1.3.14 - 3:35 PM

    Judging from the width of the front door hole (originally) and the width of the bump-out, dont you think that your door would have originally been a double-door? I think it would have probably looked something like this. Our old house is also in the midwest (Saint Paul) and while we do not have a double door (just a wide wide door), a lot of homes in our area have them. Just thought I would point it out! SO JEALOUS of the transom, by the way, wish we had one! It is going to look beautiful with the painted numbers all finished!
    AllisonReplyCancel

  • Kim1.3.14 - 3:48 PM

    Allison, that’s possible too! I really wish we could have afforded to do a double door or add the sidelights, but once we decided on the transom, we just kept picturing all the beautiful Chicago homes in our neighborhood with transoms, too :)ReplyCancel

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