Found Treasures

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The previous owner of the Griffin house did a pretty good job of clearing out her stuff, but we keep finding little leftovers—and the discoveries are more exciting than annoying. Our nephews were thrilled to find an old badminton set and a little lantern tucked in the basement’s ceiling. There’s much more down there, and under the house, that we haven’t had time to sort through.

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But my favorite find so far has been in the shed. I was stacking up some old carpet in the corner when I stepped on a small pile of papers. I picked one up and immediately recognized it as a love letter written from a man to the woman he wanted to marry. He expressed how much he missed her, and how it killed him to imagine her with someone else, and how he couldn’t wait until they were reunited. I quickly picked up another piece of paper and found an address and date stamp. It was written in 1942 and sent from a military base. Our romeo was a soldier writing to his sweetheart back home.

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I hope that we can track down the owner of these letters, or their children. But if not, we may see if a local museum is interested in them. I was also thinking it would be neat to take one of the letters, frame it, and hang it in the house as a reminder of its past.

I’m sure we’ll be finding many more treasures as we continue cleaning up the house. Follow Erica on Instagram for the latest and greatest.

Fifty Shades of Gray (Grout)

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When we started the mini renovation of our kitchen at home (which will henceforth be known as The Gray House), I knew that I wanted white stone countertops and classic white 3×6 subway tile on the walls. The question was, what color grout?

If you’ve never gone grout-shopping before, you may not realize that there are a ridiculous amount of options available. We went to the store expecting to make a quick decision, and instead we found ourselves weighing the merits of Charcoal versus Warm Gray versus Delorean Gray.

Here’s how we ultimately made our decision: Pinterest. Over the years, my “Kitchen” board has become filled with images of subway-tiled kitchens, so I did a quick assessment of the spaces I’ve been drawn to. Here’s what I decided:

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via Martha Stewart

  • White grout looks classic and clean, but tends to create a one-dimensional look with the white subway tiles. And because our cabinets are off-white, we wanted a bit more contrast. Still, it hides mistakes, which we were expecting to make a few of.

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via Lonny

  • Darker grout has a more dramatic look, but it tends to darken a space, and it’s harder to hide mess-ups. It’s also what we had in the kitchen pre-reno, and we wanted a change.

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via Our House

  • Light gray grout highlights the pattern of the tile and adds some depth to the backsplash without shining a spotlight on its flaws.

As you may have guessed based on the image at the top of this post, we chose a light gray grout (Keracolor “Silver”) for our backsplash. It went on a bit dark but dried to the perfect shade of pale gray.

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Stay tuned for a full post on our backsplash project.

Feeling bold? Check out Apartment Therapy’s roundup of colorful grout options.

To Keep or Not to Keep?

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One of the most important things to us as we embark on this renovation project is finding a balance between maintaining the historical integrity of the home while making it attractive to modern buyers. Already we’ve had to ask ourselves some tough questions:

  • The clawfoot tub takes up most of the upstairs bathroom. But it’s beautiful. Can we find a way to work it in?
  • Our realtor suggests getting rid of the mud swirl ceilings. Erica thinks they’re lovely. Todd is undecided.
  • The sink in the kitchen is undeniably cool, but undeniably impractical. Can we use it anywhere?
  • The radiators are in solid shape, and they’re a great heat source. But do modern buyers want them in every room?
  • The home’s original windows are in good shape too, and studies have shown that replacing them actually has a negligible impact on energy costs. But will modern buyers see that?
  • There are hints of features that have been removed over the years, including columns in the foyer and pocket doors between the dining room and living room. Do we invest the money to add those back in?

As we move forward and weigh our options, we’ll be sure to share how we come to a decision on each one of these questions. Have an opinion? Feel free to leave a comment!

Floored!

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Our first order of business after getting the keys to the house: Removing the gnarly carpet from every room. When we first looked at the house, the wood floors appeared to be in good shape, but we weren’t totally sure what was hiding beneath all of that carpet. So we held our breath (literally—there was some crazy dust happening) and got to rolling.

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That carpet may have been ugly, but we can thank it for protecting these floors for the last 50-odd years. Besides a few spots, the floors are in fantastic shape, and not having to refinish them will help us save a lot on this renovation.

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Anyone in the market for some “vintage” carpet? We’ve got quite a bit of it stored out in the shed. Let us know, we’ll make you a deal.

Meet Griffin: The Before Pictures

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If you’re wondering where we will be for the next several months, or what we’ll be doing, you can bet it has something to do with this guy. We’re calling him Griffin (a.k.a. Griffindor), and he’s a project we’ve been planning to take on for about a year.

After looking at multiple historic homes in the area in varying states of disrepair—and making more offers than we remember—we finally got lucky with this four-bedroom, two-bath home on the Northside of Richmond.

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A lovely woman named Gladys had lived in the home for most of her adult life, and although the floors were covered in stained carpet (including the bathroom!), the shed was caving in, and the kitchen probably hadn’t been updated since 1920, it was clear that she had really cared for the house over the years.

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With its high ceilings, spacious rooms, big backyard, and historic details (like an amazing clawfoot tub), we saw the potential in this house, and we decided to take a big—and admittedly scary—leap. This is our first real estate investment project, and we’re hoping it works out. If it does, there’s a good chance this won’t be the last home renovation we’ll be doing.

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We’re pretty excited for the months ahead, and for sharing with you as the transformation takes place.

 

We’ve got a thing for old houses.

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Pop Quiz: What do Charleston, Boston, and Richmond have in common?

Answer: They’re all cities we have called home over the last few years. They’re also cities that are known for their history—and beautiful historic homes.

We’re Erica and Todd Curran, and we’ve always had a thing for old houses. When we started searching for our first home five years ago, age was a crucial factor—we wanted nothing built after 1950. And while the number of bedrooms and the size of the kitchen were important, we were equally won over by details like beadboard walls, soaring ceilings, exposed brick, and lived-in hardwood floors.

That’s our first house, at the top of this post, a nearly 100-year-old cottage near Hampton Park on the Charleston peninsula. We adored living there, but felt the call to move closer to home, and we’ve since bought a 1920s American foursquare in a streetcar suburb of Richmond, Virginia (pictured below, with us and our nieces on the porch). As we’re slowly making this house our own, we’ve decided to embark on a full renovation project on another neighborhood house a few blocks away.

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We’re just two normal 30-somethings, learning as we go. As we move forward with our labors of love, we’re planning to document the process to share with anyone who’s interested. Because we know we’re not the only ones out there who have a thing for old houses.