Monday, June 27, 2011

Our New Midcentury Modern-Inspired, Green-friendly Kitchen

It's been a while since we posted, apologies! Work, life, wedding planning, a special event and a 30th birthday have all come to a head in the past month.

Despite the delay, we're more excited than ever to share our newly-remodeled kitchen with the world!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Our Care-Free Home's Facelift

Our new home exterior...
Looking refreshed and era-appropriate!
After much ado, the updates to the yard and front exterior are complete! And after a great trip to Jamaica, our SLR camera was stolen!

What do these two things have in common? Pictures... We had hoped to provide you with stellar in-progress and exterior reveal photos, but instead we must provide you with some in-progress photos we (fortunately) downloaded to the computer a few weeks ago and some exterior reveal photos taken with Whitney's iPhone.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Back from Jamaica Mon!

Sorry for the lack of recent posts - we've been in Jamaica celebrating a friend's wedding! Stay tuned this week for the big reveal of our front exterior... it's absolutely fabulous!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Notes From My Awesome Dad to a Girl In Over Her Head


Whitney here, with a blog post entirely in honor of my dad, John.

When it comes to remodeling, I'd describe myself as a prenovice. Despite my "adorable little tool box" (Rob's words), I have no clue when it comes to tools, construction or home repairs. The condo I recently sold was a model unit, with brand new appliances and every upgrade in the book. I purchased a condo because - at the time - I preferred to pay association dues instead of worrying about maintenance.

I wish I had a photo of my parents' faces when they first saw Our Care-free Home. We're so impressed that you have a vision! It wouldn't be our choice, but good that you can see beyond [insert major home flaw here]. After all, my parents knew then what I know now - I was in wayyyy over my head. Add to that my recent major surgery, newly-launched side business and upcoming wedding... whaaaat was I thinking???

Fortunately, my dad (who, in partnership with his wife Karen, has completely transformed his hobby farm over the past decade+) is retired and has been helping pick up my slack. At times, given I work a 9-to-5 job, we are like two ships passing in the night - he the battle ship that accomplishes great feats during the day, me the puddle jumper that feels proud to simply get from Point A to B without breaking down.

Yesterday, after a weeklong doctor-required break from manual labor, I returned to the house and discovered a treasure trove of fatherly advice... left in the form of short notes, similar to those my dad has left me throughout my life. I'm lucky to have a dad that will give me good advice rather than bark angry orders when my painting technique is clearly terrible or I ruin yet another $15 paint brush. (Not to mention a future husband that doesn't freak out when I purchase more than $100 in custom paint in the wrong finish, but this blog post is not about you, dear).

So this post, dad, is in honor of you. Thanks for all the great advice, for your help and encouragement, and for bestowing upon me DNA that could see an architectural gem through the dirt and code violations . I love you.







Friday, May 13, 2011

Found - Gift House Stamps and Four Pennies

Our treasure trove from the kitchen demo.
While demolishing parts of our nasty kitchen in preparation for our awesome new floors, countertop and cabinets, Rob stumbled upon a treasure trove... Twenty Gift House Stamps and four pennies.

They're adorable and oh so retro - but what the heck are those stamps with a "cash value of 1 mill?"

In the 1960s, Gift House Stamps was among the leaders of the multi-million dollar stamp industry in the US. As people purchased items from retailers, they often earned one stamp per evert 10 cents of the sale price. Consumers would paste the stamps in to booklets, and trade the full booklets in at redemption centers for household items or appliances.

Who knew - the previous owners were stamp collectors!

The stamps were such a cool find, I had to do a little more research. After a little Googling, I uncovered the photo below photo from the Minnesota Historical Society website. Dated January 27, 1959, it shows a Gift House Stamp Redemption center in Saint Louis Park - not far from where our house is. Very cool!

Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Considering New Shrubs and Trees

Here are some great finds that we uncovered during a recent trip to Bachman's. Which will we choose? Even we aren't sure yet... but I guarantee you they'll be featured in the big exterior reveal. Which is only a few weeks away!

Mint Julep Ponpon Juniper - grows 4'-6' with attractive mint green foliage. It's trained as a ponpon and can stay a manageable size as long as you tend to it over the course of the year.

Dwarf Scotch Pine - our current favorite, and of course the most expensive. Has rich blue-green needles and an attractive reddish bark. You can maintain the present size and shape with pruning, which is a bonus.

Mugho Dwarf Pine - grows 6'-8' tall and up to 10' wide. It's got a mounded shape with dark green foliage. It needs to be pruned to maintain its shape.
Morel-red Pine - a dwarf form of Red Pine that grows up to 6' high. It maintains a dense, rounded form with long, light green needles.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Checking Out Rock Choices

Yep, we have four tons of wet landscape
rock sitting next to the house. We're those people.
Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies totally rocks. Pun intended.

We stopped by their Plymouth location to check out landscape rock for the front of the house. We're going to pull up the cheap plastic edging, move the garden border closer to the house, create a rain garden, and cover the edge of the house in rock.

Add this to the painting and staining of the exterior, and it's getting easier to imagine our little eyesore becoming a thing of beauty once again!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Painting the Master Bedroom

Prep really is the worst part of painting...
The big project in the master bedroom has been the walls.  The original grass cloth wallpaper was in very rough shape…stained, ripped and generally showing at least 50 years of wear. 

Although it was an original feature of the home, we decided to remove the wallpaper and add some color to the room with paint.  Removing wallpaper is never fun, but with a careful approach we were able to get a great finished result.

Removing the grass cloth was actually fairly easily.  All we needed was a spray-bottle with warm water, a good paint scraper, a ladder and plenty of drop cloths.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Testing Out Exterior Stain

Three test strips of stain cover the current rust-colored wood.
We're staining the exterior wood a color that we feel will complement the purple aluminum siding - which we're keeping purple (but repainting), much to many people's surprise!

We've tried out three different colors, and think we've made a decision... but I'll keep it a surprise for the reveal!

The stains we're working with have completely covered the red using only one coat, without any preparation. A great sign, as we'll be able to save a significant amount of time by skipping the bulk of the prep and getting right to staining!

There are some parts of the wood exterior that will need to be replaced, but unfortunately we're going to have to identify those areas and replace the wood as we go. It seems as though every time we focus more on the house, we find more damage. Arg!

But taking time to enjoy the cosmetic choices we're making does help us to get through the more frustrating projects.

Here's a closer look at the exterior stains we're considering. Any opinions out there?

Option 1: Gray Cloud
Option 2: Harbor Gray
Option 3: Stonehedge

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Prepping Aluminum Siding for Painting

Hello little panels - soon you will be painted and we will
stop hating you and laughing behind your back.
The purple aluminum siding that covers most of the exterior of our home has been oxidized and faded beyond recognition. You would never know that, one day more than 50 years ago, it was a beautiful, rich, deep purple! We plan to repaint the aluminum and honor the original color... just as soon as we get a hundred panels off the side of the house.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Preparing the Exterior for Awesomeness

This, sadly, is DAYS worth of progress...
But in a month, it will look quite different!
The exterior of our house is an eyesore. Our poor neighbors have, for years (decades?), been subjected to washed out purple aluminum siding, rust-colored wood trim, overgrown plants... not to mention ankle-high piles of leaves, grass and weeds. In fact there's a pile of rotting wood waist-high on one edge of our lot. And, while using the leafblower to remove piles of debris from the side of the house, I was lucky enough to find a very large and almost fully decomposed bird, as well as a large and very old plastic bag filled with dog poop.

SUPERGAG. I have never been so disgusted.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Preparing for New Floors

Top - the "old" floor in the hallway.
Bottom - the original tile from 1958.
In preparation for our new Marmoleum and Marmoleum Click flooring, we've been working on demolition of the old floors in the front and back hallways, and the kitchen.

When we purchased the house, it was clear that any original tile in these areas had long since been covered with ugly brownish-khaki-grey linoleum. Ick.

We think removing the old floors and having new ones installed will add significant equity, as the floors simply don't make sense with the home. Not to mention they're just plain ugly.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Furnishing Our "First Room"

The house has been in a constant state of transition for over a month now, so we've been looking forward to the moment when we can finally enter a room and enjoy it... instead of thinking about all of the projects that need to be completed.

The first room that is nearly finished - and beautifully furnished - is the living room. We recently had the floors lightly sanded and buffed, so they're now clean and sparkly... almost as good as new! The following day, our furniture from the Room & Board Outlet arrived.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Painting the Guest Bedroom

Fun painting, but I am getting a little sea sick...
The guest bedroom - which was previously inhabited by a child who enjoyed bright colors and chalk boards - is just not our style.

As part of the cosmetic updates to the house, we're repainting the guest bedroom, replacing the carpet (Empire will be here as soon as we no longer need the room for a workshop), cleaning the closet doors and fixing the sliding glass doors so we don't have to seal off the 1-inch gap with painters tape anymore.

Please - bad men and large insects - let this thin blue tape keep you at bay. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mood Board - Subdued Dining a la Mod

Click to enlarge the Subdued Dining a la Mod Mood Board

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Kitchen Faucet and Old Appliance Cleaning


As is the case with most projects, simply installing a new
faucet and side sprayer became a hassle. We uncovered
a pinhole in the plumbing - here, dad is repairing the leak.
 The old kitchen sink was simple and (though not from 1958) dated. It didn't work well, and the side sprayer was clogged from the hard St. Louis Park water.

Whiler we're not ready to embark upon a full kitchen remodel, we did a few things to give the space a fresh new feel:
  1. Deep scrub of the refridgerator, microwave, oven, sink, dishwasher, countertop and cabinets. (This should probably count as seven items... after all, it took about ten man hours!)
  2. Replace the faucet and side sprayer with a new chrome finish set.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mood Board - Atomic Mod Living Room


Click the image to enlarge our very first mood board!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cleaning Aluminum Fireplace Doors

Our 53 year old fireplace looks brand new thanks to Bar
Keepers Friend liquid cleanser and lots of hard work
We've been curious as to why the former owners would install brass fireplace doors in a home that's covered in aluminum.

As it turns out, the fireplace doors weren't brass at all... they were just so unbelievably dirty after years of neglect, the color had changed.

Underneath all the dust, soot and general nastiness was a pristine condition set of aluminum and glass fireplace doors. They bring the room to life and are a perfect fit for the home. And after some deep scrubbing of the brick surrounding the firepleace (not shown), the room has been completely transformed. We love it!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fixing Damaged Redwood Window Sills


Water damage has stained
the wood so it looks gray
 Many walls and window frames in Our Care-free Home are old-growth redwood. This beautiful, durable lumber is no longer available to builders (unless it's been reclaimed), as the old-growth redwood forests were logged to near-extinction and are now protected.

The former owners damaged every single wood window frame (beyond repair in some places) by allowing water to collect on the lower wood panel. This likely have happened due to misuse of a humidifier (which our inspector forbid us from ever turning on, for this very reason) and simple neglect (when you choose not to clean, things ultimately get really dirty).

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Dangers of Not Taping (and Hideous Paint)


Really?! There is absolutely no excuse.
 The person who painted the guest/child's bedroom had very interesting taste. As in no taste at all.

One wall is half neon green and half black chalkboard. The other wall is blue and green with painted circles. Both walls are hideous.

In addition to a general lack of taste, the person who painted this room must have lacked painter's tape. Rather than taping, they allowed primer and multiple coats of paint to drip all over the aluminum that holds the drywall in place.

What would ever compel someone to paint an architectural masterpiece without taking the simple step of taping? Shame on you, former owners!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grass Cloth Removal - Check!

Grass cloth removal in process...
Original to Our Care-free Home were three walls covered in grass cloth. Perhaps they were stunning 50 years ago, but more recently they're dated, dirty and torn. The two walls of grass cloth in the master bedroom were relatively easy (but time consuming) to remove, as they were attached to drywall. Some water, elbow grease and six or so hours, and the grass cloth was gone.

The single wall in the living room, however, was more of a challenge. The grass cloth on this wall was attached to wood instead of drywall. As a result, it took about six more hours to complete the removal - despite the wall being about one-quarter the surface area of the master bedroom walls.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First Week Fixes - Not Fun, But Necessary


Only one window panel remains - sniffle  :(
It’s official. We own the home… and it’s a disaster… and we love it.

The first week in the home, our to do list has been focused on getting it up to code and fixing the many issues caused by two years of non-use (and a few years of neglect while it was being lived in, clearly).

The most heartbreaking moment so far: We found one of the original blue window shades sitting high on a closet shelf. It is simply stunning – a textured blue silk shade that fits perfectly into our long, thin windows (which feature blue aluminum grates on the exterior).

The previous owners also drilled holes into what used to be pristine condition, old-growth wood. Who knows why they needed six hooks in the ceiling of just one room (where they also apparently needed a wall that’s half neon green and half black chalkboard), but we’re left to fix the damage.

Other issues we’ve uncovered since taking possession of the house: Plumbing that is clogged or broken, four gas leaks, numerous outlets that were incorrectly wired, dozens of burned out lightbulbs, a handful of faucets that require replacing, toilet reservoirs that are so disgusting the water in the bowl is neon yellow, garage doors that refuse to open, and much, much, much more.

We’re looking forward to the day when we can start with the fun, cosmetic fixes!

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Move-Out and Closing (and Bachelorette) Week!

This is a hectic week for us... We're moving out of the condo and into Whitney's parents' house for a month, cleaning the condo for a March 16 closing, prepping for our March 16 closing on the house, and to make matters even crazier, Whitney's destination bachelorette party takes place March 17-20 in Arizona.

In honor of these crazy activities, we're taking a week off from Our Care-free Home Blog. Soon, the real fun begins!!

P.S. For anyone considering an in-town move, we recommend Smartbox U.S.A. They'll deliver the "pods" and pick them up whenver you're done packing. The pods are stored for as long as you need and ultimately delivered to your new home. They were great to work with and affordable... but don't make the same mistake we did and underestimate the amount of space you'll need.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Aluminum Invades Your Life in 1957


Photo Credit: The Sunday Herald Magazine, Oct. 20, 1957


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Handbags Take to Aluminum in 1957


Photo Credit: The Sunday Herald Magazine, Oct. 20, 1957


Monday, March 7, 2011

Aluminum Fashions from 1957

"My dress? It's Alcoa, dahling."
Photo Credit: Sunday Herald Magazine
A multi-page spread in the Sunday Herald Magazine from Oct. 20, 1957 provides some great information on Our Care-free Home... as well as the Care-free lifestyle! It's late 50's advertising and PR at its absolute best.

Among the cross-promotions masterminded by Alcoa: A luxurious ballgown, elegant handbag, sensational beachwear and bed sheets. In Alcoa's 1957 dream world, as the headline so clearly points out, "Aluminum Invades Your Life In Everything You Use."

The articles are so fantastic, I have to spread them out over a series of a few posts.

The first: Care Free Fashions for the Lady of the Home.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Florida Care-free Home in 1957

Photo Credit: The Miami News, Sept. 22, 1957
On Sept. 22, 1957, the Miami News produced an article on the first showing of the Alcoa Care-free Home, held in conjunction with National Home Week. The home was open to the public for six weeks as part of an exhibition of 25 similar homes around the country - including Our Care-free Home!

"Theme of the home is based on new uses of color and materials with minimum maintenance for the homeowner," the article states - as if mocking the years of maintenance that we have ahead of us. "In the photo [to the left], the patio area separates the bedrooms (on the right) from the carport, providing maximum light and cross-ventilation."

And in 50 years, the aluminum windows and doors will be neglected, providing unwanted ventilation in the form of freezing air coming through 1-inch gaps.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Architect Sketch - Kitchen Concept

While Our Care-free Home is lovely, there is a lot of space wasted by walkways. In a decade or so, we're hoping to change up the kitchen to make better use of the spaces in the home and open up the floorplan.

Below a sketch of a kitchen concept from our resident architect, Doug McChane (aka: Rob's father). In this sketch, the kitchen has been turned around to make better use of the space in the "great room" of the home. There's no longer a U-shaped living space (as it is set up currently, surrounding the kitchen) but the kitchen becomes the focal point of the great room. It also opens up the kitchen so that all areas of the room are visible - including our fantastic fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows.

A kitchen concept that makes better use of the space may be in the cards... about a decade from now.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Our 10-Year To Do List

There's only so much time and money to invest in the home. And, admittedly, our 1-year to do list is pretty agressive. So we've also developed a list of things we want to do in the first decade in Our Care-free Home.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Architect Sketch - Bathroom Concept B

Click on the sketch for a higer-resolution image
of Bathroom Concept B.
This is the second concept from "resident archictect" Doug McChane.

We prefer this concept over Bathroom Concept A, as it features a dual vanity and larger master bathroom.

However, we've opted to place the office in the rear of the home (the back bedroom, not drawn in this sketch), so we'd actually flip the bathrooms around. This would create a guest bathroom in the front of the home,  near the guest bedroom and closer to the living room.

Ideally, we'll make the most of the pantry space and the master bathroom will be perfect for two people. We'll still like some space for a pantry - something that has been omitted in this concept.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Architect Sketch - Bathroom Concept A

Click on the sketch to see a higher-resolution image
of Bathroom Concept A.
The bathrooms in Our Care-free Home are original and hideous. One is Pepto pink, the other is mint green. Both are 50s tile and mirror masterpieces.

We're trying to think of it as a bathroom "evolution"... from our single, tiny condo bathroom to Jack and Jill bathrooms in the new house. From one sink to two, from one mirror to two... even though they're hideous, two is better than one. Right? Riiiight? It's hard to stick with this mindset when you're actually in the bathrooms, unfortunately.

And when looking at the beautiful granite in our current condo bathroom... and the polished sink, stainless faucet, marble tile, pristine toilet... it's impossible to imagine waking up to the Pepto nightmare every morning!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WTF (What the Finance)


For sparing us from at least a dozen
arguments over the past two weeks,
while also getting us a rocking
rate on our loan, I must applaud
PJ Harris at Prime Mortgage.

This week we have learned that we hate the process of financing a home. Actually, hate is an understatement. Detest with the fire of a thousand suns is more accurate.

Between the two of us, Rob and I have easily spent 20 hours finding, filling out and reading documents. And with such a short amount of time until we close, we need to get our financing and insurance affairs in order almost immediately.

The best advice I can offer someone who is looking to finance a home: Hire a mortgage broker that is not only intelligent and trustworthy, but also friendly.

Our 1-Year To Do List

There are numerous things we need to do right away to get the home up to code. (That checklist was provided to us by the city and inspector, ugh!) The list of projects we want to complete within the first year was much more fun to put together... Detailed timeline to come!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Just to Get it to Code

Before we live in the home, in order to get it up to code, there are numerous boring and glam-free tasks that we need to take on... like cleaning the entire home, inside and out, top to bottom.

The list seems so boring - we want to get on to the cosmetic fixes right away! But purchasing the home meant purchasing all the annoying things that come with it...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Photos From the Inspection

This afternoon we spent hours walking through Our Care-free Home to understand its current condition. We suspected it needs a lot of work... now we know just how many repairs will be required! Fortunately, the bones of the home are in great shape - the biggest need is cosmetic... and the many window replacements.

We'll share portions of the inspection report with you as time goes on, as well as our growing list of projects. In the meantime, here are photos from the inspection so that you can see it for yourselves.

The interior is fantastic! The home is built from the last of the old growth wood, so it is sturdy and will hold up for years to come. The foundation is also solid - no signs of settling after more than 50 years! The sliding glass doors and glass panes will all need to be replaced... we're hoping to receive a loan for energy improvements and would use it on more efficient walls/windows.

It's Inspection Day!

Go Go Gadget Renovation!
Today we learn just how crazy we are... it's inspection day!

Barring any major structural or mold issues, we are certain we will still want the home after the inspection. We have discussed the dozens of repairs and updates for hours (days!), and we're still head over heels for our Care-free Home. But with our purchase agreement specifically stating (in oh so many ways) that we are solely responsobile for any and all issues with the home if we want to purchase it, the inspection may seem unnecessary...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An Architect's Sketch of Our Care-free Home

Rob's father is an architect, and he was kind enough to sketch out the layout of our home! It's the first floor only (basement coming soon, Doug?) but it's fantastic to look at! We'll have to frame and hang it after we move in.


We're bringing the sketches with us to inspection day, tomorrow, where we'll document (in perhaps painful detail) the repairs that we'll need to take on. Given the home is a foreclosure, and the seller won't be taking on any of the repairs, the inspection day is solely for our benefit. But it will be good to know what we're getting ourselves into with this home.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

St. Louis Park - Live Where You Work

Rob's office is located in St. Louis Park, so it was a natural option when we were considering where to purchase a home.

Our fantastic mortgage broker, PJ Harris, made us aware of an interesting program offered by the city of St. Louis Park: Live Where You Work. The city partners with employers to offer employees grants up to  $2,500 toward the purchase of a new home. You can get an extra $1,000 if the home is in foreclosure.

Exciting New Ways to Build With Aluminum (1957) Featuring Our Care-Free Home

In October, 1957, Better Homes and Gardens magazine produced a muli-page spread on the wonders of building with aluminum... and the spread featured the Alcoa Care-Free Home! Each home is slightly different (there are ~24 around the country) but many of the features and design elements are consistent.

Photo credit: Steven / spf237 on Flickr, owner of a beautifully remodeled Alcoa Care-free Home in Rochester, NY. You can check out a blog post on the renovation of his home at Retro Renovation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who was Architect Charles M. Goodman?

Charles M. Goodman (1906-1992)
Photo Credit: PreservationNation.org
From the Charles M. Goodman Archive Webpage at the Library of Congress Bicentennial Website

"Architectural historian Richard Guy Wilson has written that architect Charles M. Goodman was 'A figure of international stature' whose 'impact can scarcely be measured' and whose designs 'formed the basis of the generic Modern American house and school, widely imitated in every part of the country.' Moreover, Goodman believed that 'modern technology and materials gave the architect a new responsibility. For him, good design could influence how people live and how they relate to Nature . . . The result was a body of architecture of great distinction that captured Americans’ imagination for many years...'