Monday, April 8, 2013

Staircase Inspiration

Our Brown Staircase
Our floor guys started work on the first floor last week!!! We're so excited to see the progress...We've decided on Ebony dark stain for two reason - we both love dark floors and the darker stain will hide more of the 125 years of imperfections. So now that the floors are underway, we're getting to the point where we need to make some decisions for the staircase... There are several directions we're leaning towards as far as paint/stain color. 

Our staircase when we bought the house 

There's something about black paint on a stairs that feels sophisticated and masculine without being ordinary and predictable. I don't know if we'd pain EVERYTHING black, (as great as it looks) but maybe black with dark stained banisters might do - We have that light post on the bottom banister to work into the color scheme somehow.
The black seems to really enhance all that detail.
Love me some

Classic, timeless, clean and bright. There's going to be a lot of white in our home - We plan on having the Kitchen, Dinning Room, 'French Parlor' and at least two or three of the bathrooms painted white.

Knowing us, we'll most likely go with the white and wood combination...But I want a black staircase so bad!!! maybe I'll get my way with the maids staircase. (wink wink)

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Being a Landscape designer, I'm obsessed with plants... Really, it's becoming a problem for both Steve and I ...So its very hard for both of us to see ANY tree cut down. Of course, The house was covered in a jungle of undesirables - English Ivy, diseased half dead Elm, Pepper and Magnolia trees, hazardous leaning Pines...massive Yucca planted on the foundation and gas line...a hedge of Jade...We knew a big overhaul was in store in order uncover the house, improve the health of the GOOD trees and for overall security reasons. Fortunately, nothing was over 25 years old and we were left with some beautiful trees that will do much better now that they have space AND for every plant that was removed, we will most likely plant 3 appropriate ones in its place. 

Photo courtesy of James Gosnell

Photo courtesy of James Gosnell

Photo courtesy of James Gosnell

lovin' our Glorious Redwoods

  "There was a house behind all that!" - we've been hearing that weekly from people walking by.

We've LOVED our haunted PepperCorn trees, but they all seem to have the same disease and their branches continue to rot. We're holding out for them, but according to our tree guy its not looking good. Sad face

We had the Canary Palm adopted out... part of me wishes we had kept it, but it was in a spot that didn't compliment the house and was gonna grow into other trees in the future... Glad she's off to a good home.

We're still in progress.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ellen Kenna

One of the fun parts of buying an old house is finding boxes full of cool stuff in the basement or attic... Old newspaper, Photos, random gadgets...etc. But because our house has been so thoroughly used over the years we have been void of pretty much all of that.  Fortunately, some of the neighbors have been around long enough to help retain some of that history. - Like this incredible photograph of Ellen Kenna that one of them brought over soon after we moved in. It's one of the things we were really hoping to find when we bought the house, a picture of the woman who built it... and she couldn't be more perfect! We plan on getting this image blown up on a large canvas and mounted above the fireplace in the study.   

Ellen Kenna 

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Glimmer Of Hope

After weeks of living in a MESS of a house I decided to at put some things together in at least one of the living rooms. Even with the unfinished floors, dusty old curtains and old paint - it gave us a taste of what is to come. Just picturing it with soft white paint and dark stained floors..... Its going to be beautiful!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

So It Begins...

So, it happened! After weeks of no sleep and driving/walking by the house almost every day, on Jan 23rd 2013 at 11:am - we finally closed! Both so excited we could cry, we walked through our dream home completely by ourselves for the first time. The house seemed twice as big this time and we knew we would have our hands full, but everything felt so right. . .We knew we were in the right place.
We have now been in the house for about a month and a half now and we've been so busy working on it that I haven't taken the time to post on here. (hoping to get better about that in the future)

before we closed 
before we closed 

before we closed 

So far we have had all the overgrown trees and vegetation removed and took care of all the boring little things like maintenance on the heat, sewer, security, etc. I ripped out almost 8,000sf of carpet (couldn't wait) and started stripping the paint on the massive door jambs...not something I would wish on my worst enemy! This house will definitely be a labor of love.

first corner ripped up! in the dinning room. 
Under the carpet we found a house full of Douglas Fir, which apparently is normally just sub-flooring, only ours have decorative diagonal cuts in the corners...and are all painted. 

Fortunately, with exception of the two Parlors (seen above) where it looks like they had glued down some mats and put holes in the floor, all the floors are in great condition. Being that the house had been both a hospital and rented out room-by-room within the last 125 years, I think we lucked out!

After stripping the the first door jamb, I swore I could hear angels singing! The wood is in much better condition than I  ever thought it could be... 

first coat of Jasco 

a few coats of Jasco, plastic scrapper, some steel wool and elbow grease.  

I still have soooooooo much more paint stripping to do. . . . .And running into the oil based paint has slowed it down considerably. However, the results are very encouraging!

Friday, January 18, 2013

There Again -

Leo, Gertrude and Michael Stein.
Gertrude Stein wrote, "There is no there there" when she returned to her childhood home in Oakland, CA, only to find it had been demolished. This took place in our new neighborhood, thus - "There Again". Our goal with this blog is to not only document the restoration and renovation of our new home - The Ellen Kenna House, but hopefully inspire others in the restoration of old & Historical Homes. 

Coming from San Francisco, we were amazed that we had never heard of this gem of a neighborhood just across the bay. Filled with Victorian mansions and adorable little houses - the neighborhood inspires one to think of the way things once were and the elegance and simplicity of life back then. When our new home came on the market we jumped at the chance to own a piece of Oakland history. There is so much to be done... but we are incredibly excited to start this labor of love and hopefully inspire a few others along the way.      

The Ellen Kenna House 1890's