Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pardon Me While I Pimp This Stickley Book

For those of you who are looking for a definitive collection of Stickley homes along with an impressive catalog of all things arts and crafts, I would highly recommend this new book by Ray Stubblebine.

Finally someone has compiled all of the Stickley house designs ever published as well as a few that have never been published. The interesting thing about this book is the author has also taken the time to travel the country and photograph any known homes that were actually built from the plans. (Our house even makes an appearance in all of its mint green aluminum glory). It's a fantastic book from what I've seen so far. We received our complimentary copy in the mail last night. It tops out at an impressive 536 pages so blogs will be obsolete before I finish it. You'll just have to take me on my word that it is a great book.

In addition to Stickley's 220+ house plans and descriptions, this book also contains some of Stickley's family photos, an informative history about Gustav Stickley, as well as (my favorite part other than our house) reprints of actual arts and crafts color palettes that were offered back in the day.

Amazon has a good deal on Stickley's Craftsman Homes considering the cover price is $75. I've looked for it in stores but so far I've not seen a B&N or Borders with it in stock.

...and no, I will not receive any royalties from this post. Although I do admit that I feel a bit obligated to promote it since we received a free copy.

Also, I've finally managed to upload all of the interior photos of our house. I'll be adding links for those over the next few weeks.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hello? Is this thing on?

So I've been ignoring the blog for awhile.....I apologize.

My mother moved in with us back in August and has since not been able to financially support herself enough to move out. We're hoping something arises soon, but since then we've been unable to focus on the house. Instead I'm focusing on keeping everyone sane, including myself. We just keep telling ourselves that it is temporary.

So for those loyal 5 DYSB readers that regularly check in, I promise to have something for you soon. I've been working on getting a photo tour of the house ready for posting so you can get a better sense of what we live with on a daily basis.

I'm hoping to have some time around the holidays to catch up.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Sure Sign of the Apocalypse

On my way into work today, I saw a truck advertising this.

I love how this site says "FINALLY!". It's like this is the one invention that will save all of humanity....or end it.

I love my old logless house.

Friday, July 28, 2006

We’re Razing the Roof! Woop Woop!

I don't think I've mentioned it here before, but our home and car sustained some damage in freak hail storm that occured several months back. Here's a video of the storm that was shot by someone who lives just north of downtown.

From what others have told me, what the video shows is pretty tame compared to what some other parts of the city had to endure. We happened to be out of town for the weekend visiting the inlaws.

Our insurance estimates placed the house damage at about $15K with nearly half of that going towards a roof. The rest was divided between damage to the aluminum siding on the north side of the house, 5 broken windows (luckily just the aluminum storms), 8 shredded screens, 2 chimney caps, and my crappy aluminum garden shed. Apparently damage claims across the city topped the 500 million mark.

The roofing was a blessing as we were dreading the impending expense of replacing a roof that was quickly approaching the end of its lifespan. Plus it was an ugly grey three-tab asphalt shingle roof that really didn’t add a lot of curb appeal. As a replacement we’re upgrading to the CertainTeed Landmark TL, a lifetime warranty, three-layer, dimensional shingle roof.

Apparently the three layers means triple the cost because that’s how much more these shingle cost than our paltry three tab shingles. We opted for the Landmark TL’s because we like the shake look (our house originally had a shake roof) but we’re not big fans of the fake shading that you see on some of the dimensional shingle roofs. The Owens Corning 50 year dimensional has a short and pretty tame shade but others we looked at including Elk shingles just go way overboard. The triple layer adds much more true dimension than a single layer. We figure that with a roof as prominent as ours, we can’t afford to skimp on aesthetics.

The roofing job will start in early September. We’ve opted for a brown toned color for our shingles (the shake look photo above is our actual shingles) as that should complement the dark brown and mossy green colors that we’ll eventually paint our house. Here’s our inspiration:

Of course, Painting our house will necessitate we take off the aluminum siding first.

When will that happen? Stay tuned...

One Thing Leads to Another....and Another....Part 3: Brian vs. the Installer

For those of you just joining us, you may want to read part one of this series here and part two here.

Our kitchen floor, frankly, is a pain in the ass. We have about 7 layers of flooring on top of the original sub-floor. At some point in the history of our house, more than one owner decided that it was much easier to keep shaving inches off 6 kitchen doors than tear up the old floor before they put down the next layer. So what we’re now left to manage is a kitchen floor that is 1.25 inches above the level of the rest of the house.

Those of you who have replaced or installed a dishwasher before, know that size ...or rather, height…matters.

Luckily, the previous owners didn’t bother pulling up cabinets when applying the new floor (not surprising). They instead just laid the floor flush with the front of the cabinets. Thankfully, this left us with some additional room to work with if we could just wedge the dishwasher in past the high front edge.

Well Mr. Sears Dishwasher Installer felt otherwise. On his first trip out, he claimed his trusty measuring tape told him it was impossible. His "brilliant" solution was to cut out two feet worth of the excess floor in front of the dishwasher so he would have enough room. Okay I know our floor is ugly, but that would be crossing the line.

I wasn’t convinced. After he left, I unpacked the dishwasher and gave it the old college try. After lifting the sink with one hand and rolling the dishwasher with another, I was able to fit about 98% of it under the sink. The 2% I left exposed was to ensure that I could get the dishwasher back out in order to make the connections. But I was certain it would fit...barely.

At this point I could have, and should have installed it myself. However, I had already paid for installation and wasn’t about to let this guy off that easy. I called him back, convinced him that is was doable and waited patiently for 2 weeks before he made his second attempt.

In the mean time, I went about addressing one of his other concerns….the water and electrical connections under the sink. Apparently I had paid for the “replacement installation” and not the “new installation” which was about $100 dollars more. We did have a previous dishwasher so I really had no reason to believe that my job would be considered a “new install”. Wrong! Apparently our half-assed plumbing and electrical work under the sink would require some additional work.

Now I pride myself on being handy around the house, but plumbing is not one of my strong points. I’m not scared of it. I’ve just never really done much plumbing in my life. I lived in rental properties for 17 years before I bought this house, so it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve learned a lot of “do-it-yourself” skills. To be honest, I didn’t mow my first lawn until I was 27.

Anyway, while working on the plumbing I managed to jar some rusty corroded pipes in the basement which led to a sizeable leak….on a Sunday. I called a repairman who then charged me $150 to fix the problem (bad, but could have been worse for coming out on a Sunday). After three trips to the hardware store and several dollars in parts, I had managed to get the right plumbing connections installed. And did I forget to mention that we also thought it would be a good time to replace the faucet?

We bought a new faucet with a sprayer. The only problem was that the extra hole in the sink wasn’t large enough for the sprayer. That required a second trip to the hardware store for a drill bit that could cut through stainless steel.

We also bought a new garbage disposal since the one we had was old, loud, and not very effective. The problem was that the one we bought worked via a switch unlike our existing one which turned on by turning the sink stopper. This dilemma required us to get an electrical estimate. But of course, we could just get an estimate on the switch. We aslo had the electrician estimate the cost of installing several switches, outlets, can lights and moving some light fixtures in preparation for new kitchen lighting. The estimate came in at just under $1000.

Whoa…..hold on. Lets re-cap.

A leaky dishwasher has so far led to:

$3000 for a new refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and disposal
$1110 in new warranty parts for the faulty new appliances
$40 in plumbing supplies
$150 for a Sunday plumbing emergency
$79 for a new faucet
$15 for a stainless steel drill bit to install the new faucet
$10 in damaged non-stainless steel drill bits that sadly were defeated by our sink
$1000 estimate for electrical work
Not to mention countless man hours, time off of work, gas for redundant trips to the hardware store, mental sanity and poisoning the purity of my dogs by sharing a few choice words that I won’t repeat here.

We set some priorities. Install the faucet, sprayer and the dishwasher. Then we’ll be back to normal everyday operating procedures. The disposal and the lighting are going to have to wait.

That was over a month ago. We’re fine now. Really. Although, we’ve recently noticed that the dishwasher door doesn’t latch correctly….good grief.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Making up for lost time...

Apparently I'm on a roll today as I've done 3 posts (4 if you count this one) in the last couple of hours. Enjoy!

The Goodyear Blimp Vists DYSB

Not sure why I found this interesting enough to post, but this made a pass near our house a few weeks ago.

Contest: Name that Spider

The lovely wife happened upon this fearsome 8-legged creature in our backyard the other day. He's hanging out on the inside wall of a cinder block.

The first person to identify it along with providing photographic proof of your claim will win an actual brick from our house.

Just think, you'll be the proud owner of a Stickley brick. Okay, so Stickley didn't actually make the brick but its a brick from a Stickley house. What a coversation piece! What a fantastic paperweight!

Your brick will arrive with a certificate of authenticity which pretty much equates to a photo of me in my crawl space hand selecting your brick.

Good luck and play fair. Post your answers to the comments section with a link to a photo of your guess.

UPDATE: Here's an enhanced photo that shows his markings in a little more detail.

One Thing Leads to Another....and Another.... Part Deux

Okay, so should I even bother apologizing for not including a new post in over a month? I’ve seen enough house blogs to know that it is not uncommon for us historic homeowners to get so caught up in actually fixing our home that we don’t have enough time or energy to let others know what’s new.

So, I’m happy to say that I’ve actually found some time. Sadly, its on a plan from Harrisburg, PA to Chicago so I’ve got about 1:38 to write…..lets get right into it.

Here’s part two of some excitement that happened to us a couple of months ago. You can read part one here.

So we’ve got 3 new appliances and we’re $3000 more dollars in the hole. Somehow, we’re still happy about that. I’d love to say that all of our appliances work beautifully and that so far, we’ve had no problems with them. I’d love to say that, but I won’t. Or rather, I can’t. Instead I’ll say that they each have something in common with the plane I’m on. They arrived with their fair share of “baggage”.

The refrigerator so far has been the least problematic of the three. The only problem that we noted is that one of the door shelves on the freezer refused to snap into place because of a slight manufacturing flaw on the door itself. The drawers attach by latching on to these little plastic nubs that are a part if the inside plastic liner of the door. The drawer would somewhat stay in place, but it really wasn’t secure enough to hold anything. We called Sears to ask for a repair and they sent someone out to look at it. Diagnosis: Replace the door. The whole door. Luckily, it was under warranty so we didn’t have to pay the $1100 it cost for a new door. Why a freezer door on a $1300 refrigerator costs $1100, I’ll never know, nor will I care. That is, unless something else goes wrong after the warranty expires. I did feel a bit guilty that it had to come to that but, hey, at least the shelf fits. Now, if I just had some money left to buy food.

Three out of four burners worked on the stove. We bought a gas stove with some special burners on it called “power burners” and “simmer burners”. We should have asked for one with “functional burners” because the “simmer burner” refused to light 9 out of 10 times. The culprit? A little plate that sits on top of the burner and distributes the gas outward towards the ignitor. This problem only cost about $10 to fix. So at this point, I’m averaging about $555 in repairs per appliance. All under warranty of course.

The dishwasher was a fiasco. So much so that I think it deserves its own post. And this one’s getting too long anyway…..

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Graveling Won't Get You Anywhere

Everyone has their own preferred method of relieving stress after a long hard day of work. Some people go for a jog while others pop open a beer.

Me? ....I like to rake the driveway.

I know, I know, that doesn't sound remotely interesting to anyone. It doesn't even seem interesting to me when I talk about it. You see, we were blessed with one of the World's Longest Driveways. The first 100 feet or so are asphalt (hate it) and shared with the vacant house next door. The last 100 feet are gravel (hate that too). The gravel wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so damn large, sharp, and nearly white (like that albino guy in The Da Vinci Code).

One day after a 14 hours of staring at a computer screen full of numbers (a typical day on the job), I decided that it was time to get rid of the gravel....the hard way. I raked the driveway for about 45 minutes and managed to clear about 3 wheelbarrows full of gravel. Strangely enough, it was relaxing to me. I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

Sadly, it rained pretty hard that night, which exposed even more gravel buried beneath the section that I had just raked.

Now I rake about once every other day. You know, I'm not exactly sure what I plan to do once I finish. I'd think about that, but it would probably stress me out too much.

Then I'd have to come up with something else to relieve that stress...like tearing off aluminum siding.

Monday, May 22, 2006

One Thing Leads to Another....and Another....and Oh Dear God, Please Make it Stop!

A few weeks ago, Emily was down in the basement doing laundry when she noticed a random wet spot in the middle of the floor. When she looked up, she saw water dripping from the ceiling. After a little investigating, we realized that the dishwasher had been slowly leaking and seeping through the kitchen floor. I'm not sure how long the leak had been there, but it was safe to say that it had been that way for more than a few days...maybe a few years.

Well now we had a dilemma. Fix or replace? All of the appliances in the kitchen came with the house when we bought it. As close as I could tell, the appliances were all from the Reagan-era...the first term. Our dishwasher had already failed us once, and rarely produced what I would call "clean" dishes.

The leak seemed to be coming from somewhere near the motor, so my vote was to replace. Emily agreed. Of course this discussion then led to..."Well what if we just bought all new appliances?" (I admit, I was the one who uttered those famous words.)

It made sense. These days, some of the package deals that you get on appliances make it very tempting to buy everything at once. We searched several stores but eventually found what we wanted at Sears. Although it wasn't until my second trip to Sears that I finally was convinced to buy from them. On my first trip, the appliance salesman chose to spend more time helping a guy pick out the right vacuum cleaner bags than answer my questions about the $1200 fridge I was looking at. Don't they work on commission? That must be one heck of a commission on an $8 bag of vacuum cleaner bags.

Anyway, on our second trip, the salesperson actually recommended that we come back at the end of the month when they had a bigger sale. Buy 3 appliances over $399 and get 20% off all three. That was enough incentive for me. We picked out 3 while we were there and then went home to wait patiently. On the way, we stopped to stock up on paper plates and plastic cups.

Two weeks later, on the last day of the sale, we forked out the money and bought the appliances. A $100 dishwasher repair had just turned into $3000 worth of new Kenmore stainless steel appliances.

Touché Stickley Bungalow. Touché indeed.

To be continued....

Bonus...Here's a photo of Old Smokey just before he made his first 2006 trip to the landfill. Note the dishwasher.

  Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 15, 2006

What are the odds....

If you've had a chance to check out the latest edition of American Bungalow, you'll notice that there is an article about a Gustav Stickley designed Craftsman House located in a little historic neighborhood called "Irvington". Sound familiar?

No, strangely enough, it's not our house. It's the Lewis T. Gilliland House.

Given that they have only identified less than 100 true Stickley Craftsman homes that exist in the country, I find it very strange that there are two located in neighborhoods called Irvington. The Gilliland is located in the Historic Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon and ours in the Historic Irvington neighborhood of Indianapolis.

That, my friends, is a creepy coincidence.

If you happen to live in the Portland, OR area, be sure to check out Irvington's home tour this weekend as I'm sure the newly restored Gilliland house will be a sight to see.

Needless to say, I'm jealous that ours still has a long way to go.

Winning the War on Boredom.

Okay, so we've been out of the loop for awhile but in our defense, we've had a flurry of recent activity that has kept us from having much time to do anything. Here's a preview of what's been keeping us busy lately and what you can expect in future posts:

1. Photos. I'm scanning in photos of the house from when we bought it so you can see how little we've actually done in 3 years. Fantastic!

2. Hail damage. Because of some recent hail damage, the roof and the aluminum siding will need to be replaced. We hate them both so we couldn't be happier. We're taking the siding off for good and then replacing the roof. Oh good God that is going to be a big job......Buckle up.

3. Kitchen repair. Our kitchen, by far, the ugliest room in the house, is getting a makeover. The new appliances have arrived and we're working on getting the electrical work estimates. I'm not looking forward to pulling up 7 layers of flooring.

And the house next to us is vacant again so if anyone wants to be our neighbors, just let me know. This house has been foreclosed on twice in three years. I don't know if its cursed or if its just the neighbors....Oh wait, that's us.

Speaking of neighbors, our new neighbors to the south just painted their house. Oddly, they chose the same green color as our siding. It's a definite improvement over what was there before, but now it makes me feel like I live in the burbs where the houses are all the same color.

So in addition to the work on the house, which takes up about 10% of my time, the other 90% has been spent on making neighborhood improvements, trying to move my mother to Indianapolis, help my brother find a job, spring lawn maintenance, and of course, my day job.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Buying an old house? You'll want a crappy truck.

It’s no secret for those of you that have bought a house in various stages of disrepair that nothing comes in handier than a good old worn out pick-up truck.

Meet Old Smoky, our prized 1973 Ford Ranger. Old Smoky got his name, well because when you start him up, big plumes of smoke shoot out from his tailpipe. I have an uncle that used to have the same problem.

Unfortunately Old Smokey didn't come with the two fine looking ladies shown above. Instead he came equipped with a faux wood sided camper top, “questionable” brakes, no heat, an AM radio, several spots of rust, 140,000 original miles, and a tweed seat cover that smelled like an old boat.

We were gifted Old Smoky by the parents of my sister-in-law's then boyfriend Cory. We were so grateful that we agreed to give-up our first born in exchange for the free truck. Sadly, our first born Ella wasn't really a fair trade so they sent her back and told us to keep the truck.

Some of the first work we did on our house was actually on the yard. Our front and backyard were engulfed in Irvington’s worst nightmare, Purple Wintercreeper Euonymus . You can see it in the front yard and along the backside of the house in my previous post. The photo above shows some of our efforts in the back corner of the yard.

Anyway, as you can see above, Old Smoky came in handy as we started to rip this stuff out. It seriously takes a flamethrower to kill this stuff. If you don’t have a flamethrower, you can either resort to some pretty harsh chemicals or, just rip it out with your bare hands. Stupidly, we chose the latter. After several months and about a dozen truckloads to Greencycle we finally had a clean slate for a backyard. So naturally, we then moved on to something totally different.

When we finally do the front yard, I’m going to opt for the flamethrower.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Now with Minty Fresh Aluminum!

And here is the house in the condition that we found it. See those people in the photo? They're looking for the Stickley House. They heard that there was one in the neighborhood somewhere but when they went to look for it, all they found was this giant green monstrosity.

Actually, I shouldn't complain, its not that bad. And it did come with some industrial strength clotheslines. Some people have pools and patios. We have clotheslines. And there's an industrial strength swing set in the back yard too. What a steal! I hope I'm up to date on my tetanus shots.

Does anyone have a time machine?

This is what our house looked like back in the 1940's. For those of you that are familiar with any of Stickley's house designs, ours is house #8 from the 1905 series. I've included the photo from the original Craftsman magazine design plans.

Sadly, the house has taken on a few unsightly changes since then. And by unsightly I mean ugly. And by changes, I mean green aluminum siding.

However, I am happy to report that there haven't been any structural alterations. There are no crazy additions, no massive floorplan redesigns, and no waterslide from the attic down into the basement. I'm actually pretty broken up about the latter.

Luckily, all of the original wood siding is still intact beneath. The first level of the house is sided with a rough cut spruce siding that is about 6 inches wide and about an inch thick. This was then stained a deep brown. The second level was sided in cedar shakes and was stained a mossy green. The windows are painted white in this photo, although we don't think that was the original color. We have an older B&W photo of the back of the house that seems to show the windows as a dark color rather than white. We haven't investigated further, but I'm sure we will find out eventually.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Who is this guy? And what's with the goofy bow tie?

Have you ever heard of Gustav Stickley? I hadn't. At least not up until 2003.

As I was searching through www.fctucker.com for houses, I found one for sale in Irvington that mentioned him as the designer. Most new houses today don't provide you with the name of the architect in the listing. Mainly because most new houses today are probably designed by guys named Steve or Bob and look like this stunning architectural marvel: The Oak. I'm guessing that more time is spent trying to come up cheesy names for the design rather than the actual design plans themselves. Oops....I'm on my soap box. Moving on......

Emily was finishing her master's in Historic Preservation and Restoration Architecture at Ball State University (MSHP Program). I called her on her cell and asked if she had ever heard of Stickley. She had. And when I explained to her why I was asking, it all went down hill from there. For those of you that haven't heard of him, here's a brief bio of Gus, courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica:

Gustav Stickley
born March 9, 1858, Osceola, Wis., U.S.
died April 21, 1942, Syracuse, N.Y.

U.S. furniture designer and maker who largely created what came to be known as the Mission style.

Stickley learned basic furniture-making skills in a Pennsylvania chair factory owned by an uncle. After a time he took over the factory and in 1884 moved it to Binghamton, N.Y. He experimented briefly with designs in the fashionable Art Nouveau mode before introducing, about 1900, a new line of sturdy oak furniture whose virtues of simplicity, functionality, and soundness of construction were for Stickley an expression of democratic values. He established the Craftsman Workshops in Syracuse in 1901 and began publishing the monthly magazine The Craftsman to carry his ideas and designs to a wider audience. Although he owed something to the British Arts and Crafts movement, Stickley was a highly original designer who applied his ideas not only to furniture but to decorative accessories of all kinds. One of the most popular features of The Craftsman was a series of house designs intended to suit modest incomes.

The popularity of Craftsman furniture waned after a decade and a half, and in 1916 Stickley ceased publishing his magazine and gave up his bankrupt workshops to two younger brothers, who continued for a time to produce furniture from his designs. Two other brothers had for some time produced similar furniture under the name L. and J.G. Stickley, and numerous other imitators had capitalized on his work as well.

"Stickley, Gustav." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2006.
Encyclopedia Britannica Premium Service. 25 Mar. 2006

I have to admit, there was nothing about the online photos that made me even want to see the place in person. It looked like the kind of place that parents told their children to pass over on Halloween. But that didn't stop us. We set out on a "drive by" in the hopes that whatever we found would make us happy we still lived in an apartment. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Our first house.....what the hell were we thinking?

Usually when a newly married couple ventures out to buy their first home, they choose something small, manageable, and in relatively good shape.

Not us. Not that we're very proud of that. At least not any more.

I shouldn't even have been looking for a house. We had just re-signed our lease at our apartment complex in Fishers. (Yeah, I know. Hey at least it wasn't Carmel). Emily, my wife, was finishing her masters degree at Ball State. The plan was to wait until she finished school, then spend the next year looking for the perfect house. Something that was just the right size, in good shape, and, at the request (ultimatum) of Emily, built before 1920.

Instead, I, moron that I am, decided to browse some realtor websites just so see what was "out there".

And so begins our story......