Friday, February 5, 2016

Master Bedroom Progress, Part 2

When I last posted about our Master Bedroom, the walls were mostly painted and we had restored the first of the five windows. The bedroom was habitable, but far from complete. At the time, I had divided our remaining projects into "short-term" and "long-term" tasks. Here is that list, and an update of where we stand thus far:

Short-Term Project List
*Repair all windows - 75%
*Paint crown molding - NO
*Prep and paint narrow walls to the left of the alcove - YES
*Stencil ceiling - 5%
*Repaint and rehang entry door - YES
*Repaint and rehang closet door - NO

Longer-Term Project List
*Purchase new/antique nightstand(s) - NO
*Purchase antique table lamps - YES
*Purchase small antique chandelier - YES
*Hang some additional artwork - YES
*Refinish husband's dresser (not pictured) - NO
*Improve storage (maximize space in closet and under the bed; find/create some storage solution for me) - 50%.

As you can see from that list, we were a bit flexible with our approach to prioritizing tasks. We moved on to some of the long-term tasks before completing the short-term ones. This probably sounds like poor project management, but it was the right choice.

In this post, I'll talk specifically about repairing the windows and the walls next to the alcove.

We've now restored four of the five windows in this room. They've each gotten soup to nuts restoration: first we stripped the old paint from the wood and hardware, then applied new glazing, new oil-based paint, new sash cords, and new brass weatherstripping. After repairing the first window, we identified three areas for improvement: improved speed, improved craftsmanship of our glazing, and improved craftsmanship of our paint job.

We've done a little better in all those areas, but we still have lots of room for improvement. But there was one area where we did far worse: keeping the glass intact.

When we repaired the first window, we removed all the crumbly glazing. We then removed the panes of glass completely, primed the window sashes, reinserted the glass and applied new glazing. When we tried this same approach for the second window, the glass shattered. On both the top and bottom sashes. When the first pane shattered, we thought it was a fluke. We were heartbroken, but figured that perhaps there was a hairline crack that we hadn't noticed. Then we cracked the second pane, and we became more concerned. Clearly we were doing something wrong.

We had no obvious explanation for the broken glass: we did not drop it or bump it against another object. We lifted it carefully and set it down carefully.

These are large panes of original wavy glass, and it turns out that they are so thin and brittle that simply holding them incorrectly can cause them to break.

When the glass broke, I was reminded of a conversation I had with an antiques dealer. He said that one of his biggest disappointments is breaking an antique that he knows has been treasured and passed down from generation to generation. There are few feelings worse than knowing that you are responsible for ruining an item that had otherwise stood the test of time. He was so right.

We were especially devastated when we learned that this glass was somewhat unusual for a house like ours. Our house was built c.1880 and glass manufacturing technology had recently made great strides. However, large panes of glass were still very costly. For this reason, most houses in the 1880s had windows that were built with two (or more) smaller panes of glasses on each sash. This is called a "two-over-two" configuration, and it's what we have on the rear windows and most side windows. On the front of our house, however, the windows have a single large pane of glass in each sash. This is known as a "one-over-one" configuration. I've seen these types of windows on the Victorian mansions in our town, but rarely on more modest homes like ours. The previous owners likely made a large investment when choosing these one-over-one windows, and I'm sure they were a point of pride for the house's inhabitants. The fact that the one-over-one windows are only on the front of our house shows that they were too costly to use throughout. We were so discouraged when the glass broke that we ended up stepping away from window repair for a few weeks and reevaluating our process.

When we resumed the window repair, we replaced the broken glass on the second window with old glass from an antique store. It's not as old or wavy as our glass, but we figured it would be a better approximation than using new glass.

Note: I apologize that these pictures are so dark. This room gets a lot of natural light, but I'm having a hard time capturing light in any pictures I take of this room. 

For the third and fourth windows, we decided to restore the windows without removing the glass, given our bad track record. In addition, both of these windows already had small cracks in the glass (not our doing!). We thought preserving the original glass was worthwhile, even if the glass isn't perfect. Our solution for now is to leave the original glass in place, and put a thin layer of epoxy over the cracked section. We'll see how well it holds up. If we ever have children, we may decide on a different approach. With our previous approach, we replaced all the old glazing. With our new approach, we just removed any loose glazing, then applied a thin layer of new glazing over the existing, intact glazing. We did not attempt to lift or remove the glass. Here is what the restored third and fourth windows look like.

I'd say that we're about 75% finished with the window repair in this room. Windows three and four still need new interior stops. We also still need to repair the fifth window (not pictured). When we finished the fourth window, it was late November or early December. Since we need to remove each window for about a month in order to restore them, we decided to wait until spring to tackle the fifth window. 

Here's another close-up picture of the restored window. The new brass weatherstripping has done a great job of eliminating drafts in this room. To make the seal even tighter, we added temporary weatherstripping cord for the winter months. In the picture above, it's that squiggly stuff. It looks terrible, but it's keeping our room warm, so we'll live with it for a few more months.

When we removed the wallpaper from this room, we were in for a surprise. In the section of wall next to the alcove, the plaster was in very bad shape. Large pieces of plaster fell away from the wall, exposing our brick chimney. And we were in for another surprise: it appeared that several of the bricks had been chiseled away, leaving a hole the size of a dinner plate.

According to our mason, this hole in the brick likely resulted from a potbelly stove being piped into the chimney. At some later point, the stove was removed and the wall was patched with a new layer of plaster, without replacing the missing bricks. As you might expect, the new plaster was weak in this section since there was nothing (i.e., no bricks) for it to adhere to.

This chimney is nonfunctional, but from a structural standpoint, we didn't particularly like the idea of the missing bricks. We asked our mason to fill in the missing bricks to the best of his ability. Since we were already doing so much exterior masonry work, the incremental cost for this repair was relatively minor.

This is the last picture I posted of this wall, which shows the repaired brick. At the time, we were considering leaving this small portion of brick exposed.

I love the look of exposed historic brick. However, after staring at our exposed bricks for several weeks (or was it months?) we decided that it just looked unfinished. We tried putting a picture frame around it, but it still didn't look right. We decided that this section of exposed brick was just too small to look intentional.

We had two options: 1) remove more plaster, exposing a larger section of the chimney. Hope it looks right, or 2) repair the missing plaster.

Ultimately, we decided to repair the plaster. My husband balked at the idea of tearing perfectly good plaster off the walls. He's also not fond of exposing masonry that wasn't originally intended to be seen. He's a purist that way, I guess.

So, no exposed brick for our bedroom. I will just have to enjoy other people's exposed brick via Instagram and Pinterest. The struggle is real.

We repaired most of the walls in our bedroom using Big Wally's Plaster Magic. I've spoken about Big Wally's before, and it does a fantastic job of repairing small and large plaster cracks. But it's not intended to repair holes the size of a dinner plate. So, my husband learned how to use plaster and patched the hole. Then I applied several coats of joint compound, smoothing the surface as best as I could. Our repair isn't perfect, but it's pretty good for our first time using plaster.

My husband enjoys all the imperfections in the plaster walls, with the thought that it gives our home character. I haven't come around to that viewpoint yet. I tend to focus on every bump and dimple in the plaster, and wish I had spent a little more time prepping the walls before painting. In hindsight, I might have applied one of two more coats of joint compound to get the surface as smooth and straight as possible.

Even so, compared with where we started, I think this wall is a case of "done is better than perfect." There's no longer a hole in our chimney or our walls. That's a good thing. 

In my short-term project list, I planned to stencil the ceiling. In some of the pictures above, you can see that I started the border. I am happy with how it looks so far, but I haven't made much progress. I'll finish this project eventually, but it turns out that stenciling a ceiling is an incredibly slow process. I'm doing it by hand and working in small sections. Each 4-6" section of ceiling requires climbing down the ladder, refilling the brush, and climbing back up the ladder. The ceiling is going to look lovely when it's done, but it's been moved to the long-term project list. I can't quite remember why I thought stenciling the ceiling was important enough to be a short-term project.

We've also added a few decorative touches to this room, like new table lamps, an antique chandelier, and some better storage. I'll save those for a future post. Thanks for checking in, friends!

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  1. I'm so sorry about your windows!! Restoring windows isn't on our list since our original windows were removed decades before we bought the house, but it's something I'm interested in. I know precious old wavy glass is and it sucks to lose some of it!

    Great work on everything else! I love your paint color and love the idea of a stencil border on the ceiling. Did you use gold paint for that?

    1. Meg, thanks for your comment and encouragement. Restoring windows has definitely been a wild ride. Despite our various obstacles, it feels great to walk into our bedroom, see those windows, and know that they'll be functional for years to come.

      And yes, the ceiling border is stenciled with gold paint. The color is called "Antique Gold" and it's the stencil creme paint offered by Royal Design Studio. So far, it's very easy to use. It's a bit pricey per ounce, but I've found that a little goes a long way.

  2. Jamie, total bummer about the wavy glass windows breaking! My guts hurt for you. I know how hard you're working to make this home beautiful but also to lovingly restore it in a way that is respectful to the home. I love the changes in the bedroom and the gold ceiling stencil is fierce. It's going to be amazing when it you get it all finished! Keep up the good work, CoCo

    1. CoCo, we were so, so devastated when that glass broke. We have a few ideas for how to protect the glass better when we repair windows in the future, so we can avoid breaking any more panes.

      I'm really excited for the ceiling, too! It's definitely a labor of love (and sore muscles!).