Saturday, October 27, 2012

Farmhouse Bathroom Remodel -- Done!

Remember when I mentioned how our family has gotten so much closer after the move?  Well, I wish it was because of how magnificently and sensitively I shepherded my children through the transition.  It's actually because of the fact that all five of us share one bathroom upstairs.  When we first moved in, I thought that was going to be one of the most challenging parts of living here, but it's been totally fine.  I  swear.  Plus, it gives me hyper-control over my children's hygiene.  I actually didn't know I still needed that.  Do you know how many shortcuts a child takes in this department when you're not around?!  I actually had to tell one of my children that yes, you have to use toothpaste when you brush your teeth, even on the weekends. Yikes.

Though the shared space is fine, what wasn't fine was how much the bathroom needed to be resurfaced and updated -- from the cracked and peeling cultured marble, to the vinyl flooring, to the impossible-to-keep-clean shower surround, to the room-length mirror, to the fluorescent shop lights over the vanity.  I'm sure it was an example of high design back in the day, but its day was over.  I wanted to give it a rustic, vintage feel, with a slightly modern edge. And I wanted the remodel to be as low-cost as possible.  Which explains my radical decision to paint every square inch of the perfectly beautiful cherry wood that filled the room.  Sorry, all you purists out there.  Here are some before/after pics to show you what a few changes can do to a space.

Found some reclaimed barnwood at an architectural salvage store (link below).  Had varying sizes of "slate look" tile laid in a random pattern to keep it rustic and informal.  Added an antique glass door cabinet to bring a little history back in amongst the new surfaces.

Since this bathroom will primarily be used by the kids, I needed to choose a floor material that was easier to clean than natural stone, and more resistant to water than wood.  

There was so much wood to paint!   I decided to use Annie Sloan chalk paint in Old White on all the cabinets so they would look like oil-rubbed, vintage furniture.  For the rest of the surfaces, I had the chalk paint color-matched at Sherwin Williams in a latex, satin finish and was able to coat the larger surfaces with a roller.  Matched perfectly.

Counter tops were custom made out of Peruvian walnut.  I kept all the original, antique brass hardware.  I love those H hinges and they can be found all over our house.  
The barn wood was dark and didn't have that weathered gray look I was after, so I cheated!  With a dry-brush technique I added a very diluted wash of Annie Sloan chalk paint in Paris Grey to lighten it and help it blend with the floor tile. Here's a sample of an original board next to the "weathered" ones.

I spray painted chrome cage lights with Rustoleum's oil-rubbed bronze finish -- that saved me a TON of money, since I needed four sconces quickly and chrome was the most available.  Modern, counter top vessel sinks are from Kohler (great Overstock find!), and I kept the original antique brass faucets because I just love them.  Added mini-can lights from Lowes over vanity for extra light while putting on makeup.

Tub/shower surfaces were done with matte subway tile and a slightly darker grout to complete the vintage/modern look I wanted.  A new shower fixture with  rain shower head brings a little luxury into this beautiful, old farmhouse. 
I can't even begin to tell you how much I love being in this bathroom!  And it is such a thrilling thing to see the vision in my head turn into something my family can touch and enjoy.  When you factor in their size, function, and comfort, a bathroom remodel is a lofty undertaking loaded with tough decisions. But I'm learning that great design doesn't have to be expensive. It just has to be great.  So don't be afraid to paint some wood, put a little effort into a few standout features (like a barn wood focal wall!), and if a reasonably-priced sconce is calling your name in the wrong finish, spray it!

Material Sources:

Silverfox Salvage, Albany, NY -- reclaimed barn wood
LampsPlus -- sconces
Overstock -- Kohler vessel sinks
BestTile -- Italian "slate" floor tile
Faucet Direct -- Moen shower/tub fixtures
Amazon -- Whisper Quiet exhaust fan by Panasonic
Miller Construction, Guilderland -- so many talented craftsmen!
Design on 20, Guilderland --invaluable sounding board and support during material selection
Lowe's -- industrial light over commode
Perfectly Imperfect -- Annie Sloan chalk paint and "should I paint the wood?" inspiration!
Target -- shower curtain and bath mats
Something Olde Something New, Slingerlands, NY -- antique glass-door cabinet

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I can't believe I haven't written about one of the quieter blessings of this property.  When we came for our final walk-through, our realtor told us there was a "sign" in the backyard that we were in the right place.  (He knew a little about the path that had brought us to New York and had worked tirelessly to find us a peaceful corner of the world.)  Under a shade tree not 20 yards from the house, a deer lay resting, heavy with pregnancy.  We shared our first spring with "Shalom", and got to watch her fawns, Dorcy and Daffodil, play all summer.  What a gift.

We have a few apple and pear trees on the property and the deer spend a lot of time underneath them.  Once we happened to be watching when an apple fell out of the tree onto one of the fawn's heads.  Did you know fawns can jump straight up like a cat?  Hysterical.

Slowly the fawns got bigger and their spots began to fade, but they were never far from their mother.

As Fall came, Shalom's fur got thicker and she fattened up for the winter.   Luckily, she was not afraid of my camera and gave me many chances for poses like this.  Click to enlarge it.  She is beautiful.
There was rarely a day we didn't see them, even through the winter.

Spring brought us a new mommy and summer brought us new fawns.  The cycle began all over again while we watched.

One of the best parts about sharing our life with these beautiful creatures is getting to see daddy in a new light.  My husband has a serious heart for animals and we get to watch him act on it daily as he waits for our family of deer and can sometimes even summon them from the forest with a click of his tongue.  Just this month he has reached a new level of trust with one of the fawns who now playfully darts around him, unafraid. I caught him out there with them once before dawn, in his suit and tie, in the rain.  This is a powerful lesson for my young boys about gentleness and respect.

It was a bold and scary move to choose land over a neighborhood when we have three social children who were pulled from suburbia, but I have to believe they are going to learn something here that only nature can teach. I hope they are learning that the quiet space between play and sound and work has the ability to soothe and replenish them.  I hope they are learning that the natural environment is as big a gift as technology. Maybe by being surrounded by such beauty they will hear God's voice a little louder, a little earlier, and a little more often.  I don't know.  But I do know it is doing all of those things for their mother. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An Excavated Terrace

An exciting and ongoing part of living in a historical home is the occasional discovery of relics from Woodwind Farm's early days.  Previous owners were kind enough to pass these items on to us: belt buckles, square head nails, skeleton keys, primitive tools, pieces of broken china.

Perhaps the most amazing discovery was that of Gideon Wood's memorial marker in a neighboring field.  He was the patriarch and first of four generations of the Wood family (hence the property's name) who lived here.  Woodwind Farm was originally comprised of 200 acres (a little larger than its current six).  Perhaps this headstone was part of a memorial garden on the expansive property. It now sits next to the house.  I am told more than half of it is buried -- some day I may do some digging to find if an epitaph is written on the bottom half.

One of the items left for us was a newspaper from 1988 that included an extensive feature on the farm and its history.  In that article, a stone terrace is mentioned.  What?!!!  Where?!!!  We knew that in 1948 many of the outbuildings and barns were torn down and pieces of the barn foundation were used for the retaining walls and decorative structures we see scattered throughout the property.  But we never saw a true terrace.
A large rectangular area off the living room in the back housed a raised bed of overgrown herbs.  It was framed by a stone wall, most of which was hidden by plant material. Could this be the terrace?

It was!  My husband and I started digging and quickly discovered that the plants were growing in less than an inch of soil on top of stone.  Even the path was completely covered by lawn.

The walls were crumbling, the terrace stones were far from level, and a difficult set of stairs was the only access.   We a hired a gifted stone mason, who had already done much of the stone work on the property, to reset it.

Woodwind Farm's terrace is back in business. Check back for more posts once the landscaping is completed and adjoining patios are finished!  Now if I can just figure out what do with all these mosquitoes so we can use it...