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Friday, June 19, 2009

if we had known then...

Just weeks before we closed on this house I read an article in a shelter magazine where a couple had painstakingly restored an antique home. They made the comment that if they had known then what they know now, they probably wouldn't have done it. But.... they were so glad that the didn't know, and that they did do it because they loved living in their house! I didn't want to admit it at the time, but I secretly knew I would later hear myself repeating those same words, "if we had only known then....,but I'm so glad we didn't"

The six and a half months of the remodel are a blur at this point. I sometimes can't bear to look at certain photos because of the difficult memories they bring back. That said though, there were also these magic moments in the whole process where you could literally feel the house angels breath on the back of your neck whispering... Yes, you are supposed to be fixing this old house. These magic moments came when you least expected them, in the middle of pulling your hair out over some problem you would find the perfect 'this or that' for some part of the house. It was as if the house angels were whispering that we were on the right track, and encouraging us to keep up the fight. Here are a few of our magic moment finds for the house!

We found this gorgeous antique light fixture on a trip to Maine. We actually went that day with the intent of looking for a front porch light. I walked into Old House Parts in Kennebunk and right there to the right of the front door sat this iron fixture. I saw it, grabbed it, and didn't put it down until we went to pay for it. It was just too perfect! We love iron fixtures, we loved the design and it has this gorgeous mica shade- our grounds are covered with little flakes of mica! The back plate was a new replacement, and it couldn't carry the weight of the piece, so on our very next trip to Maine (we go every three weeks, or so) we stopped into Portland Salvage and found the perfect iron back plate that looks like it was literally made for this fixture.
(disclaimer: the exterior has yet to be painted...)

We found this transom in Vermont just days after making the decision to add one to the doorway between the kitchen and the barn room. I hadn't written down the measurement, but vaguely remembered it was a five foot span. We purchased this piece based on our gut, as it was exactly five feet! The transom fit the opening so exactly there was barely 1/8" to spare.

When we bought the house the walls on each side of the living room fireplace had been removed, this opened up the living room into the small room behind it that we have dubbed the Reading Room. The fireplace just floated between the rooms. It was wrong on so many levels, so needless to say, we built the walls back which enclosed both rooms as they were meant to be, and it left a little nook in the Reading Room where we planned to put some shelves for books, and the computer wi-fi and printer on the bottom. It's a small and odd size nook, so we had our doubts about finding a door to cover it. While antiquing in Concord, Massachusetts (a most charming and historic little town) we found this wonderful antique door with old glass on the top (where the books would go) and a panel on the bottom (where we could hide the computer components)- perfect! And then to top it off look how perfectly it fit the space.... meant to be.

And finally, there is this purchase I made over two years ago when we still lived in Dallas. We were trying to sell our house so we could buy this one. I bought it on a wishful whim that it would one day sit on this very island in this very house! Last night I cut some white peonies that I found on the property (my favorite!) and filled the vase for the very first time. I stood back and cried. It looked exactly as I had envisioned it would over two years ago.

thank you house angels!


  1. WOW! What serendipity to find such perfect things. And to have peonies! Lucky gal.

  2. well now you made me cry......I am so happy to hear YOU happy. I know it has been a long, painful process but you have the home of your dreams and all the wonderful things you have collected over the years have a new life......all's right in the world.

  3. Good to know there is light at the end of the renovation tunnel. Maybe our house angels are on vacation. Lol. Great finds...serendipity for sure. Love the flower realization moment. Smiles, LC

  4. What a beautiful post... and so positive.. and if it is any comfort, there is much heartache in building new too! I too have stood back and cried with joy .. I so know your feelings Joan and I am sure you've had some tears of frustration too. I am hoping my house angels will be with me on Monday when I am trying to convince our supervisor to redo our painting at his cost. A-M xx PS I'm serious about the house angels too... my little one is convinced that every time he goes into his room, his Lego Bionicle has changed position and is in a different spot each time.... you messin' with us angels??????

  5. With all the challenges of creating your home, it's so wonderful to hear of the serendipitous finds that are so right, it's as though angels have created them just to see our smiles. Or our happy tears. Such perfect fits for your home found in places far and near. Love the shape of you beautiful vase!

  6. I love stopping by and reading your blog! What an adventure and the end results are just so perfect.

    I understand your love of old house and New England, that is where my heart is but for now I am in NJ!

  7. Oh dear Joan, I got teary reading this too. Poor MOTH's got to work today (on someone else's house again!) & then wants to race back & pour the concrete floor in the Bathroom From Hell (BFH) this afternoon. It's cold & rainy, so it won't be very comfortable with the wind blasting through the hole in the wall that's still there. He's such a trooper, bless him.
    Your purchases were really serendipitous - they look just perfect. Our house angels seem to have gone on sabbatical, as MOTH's been confronted with so many unforeseen dramas in the BFH, if you see the angels please send them our way.
    Millie ^_^

  8. It looks amazing. How proud you must be :)

  9. I do believe in house angels and now even nearly 10 years later I have the occasional misty eye when I see how much has been achieved in my home...Happy weekend, xv.

  10. So funny, as I skimmed the post first before reading it. My eyes welled up when I saw the white peonies, then I read your story. First, I have a weakness for white flowers, old homes (renovated many), Maine (my dream summer move) and New England (where my family lives).
    A country girl at heart, the idea of living in a town with no traffic light, makes me ponder where I live now and your most appropriate Mark Twain quote. Thanks for the inspiration, your home is most lovely and welcoming.

  11. I can so relate...and you're so right. Revel in the magic of all that has been beautiful. Those peonies are such a wonderful, sweet sign of the beauty that will continue to follow.

  12. Joan: what a great post! You have truly made your farmhouse a home. The two of you are living Mark Twain's quote!

  13. What great finds for your house. I'm so impressed by all you have done in so short a time!

  14. The name of your blog says it all.
    We do these things out of love not logic.
    It's an art, an expression of you and what your find to be beautiful.
    It's in your DNA, Joan, you have to create in this way. It's your passion.


  15. See...the dream unfolds...and was meant to unfold. Perfectly.

    Each treasure, each picture is priceless! Thanks for letting us tag along!!

  16. beautiful post, beautiful picture!

  17. Your home is gorgeous! You are brave to have conquered such a home. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Thank you house angels! I am going back through your blogs from the beginning, finding some I have missed, I know I've said it before, but I love everything that you have done, and how you've decorated. Incoporated some ideas here and there in my old house, that we are restoring ourselves. We have our own house angels, you can feel when they are happy with what you have done! Great job!!

  19. Hi Joan,
    I just recently found your blog through the Gardener's Cottage I think. I'm going through the remodel systematically, now, after having looked at all the finished rooms. Thank you for sharing this process with us. Your house is gorgeous.
    This post spoke to me because I refer to the renovation gods. I live in a small 1947 clapboard house in Ft. Lauderdale, and we've been very gradually renovating it, but keeping it authentic.
    Our huge blessing from the renovation gods was, through a series of fortuitous happenings I won't burden you with (but they were incredible) locating EXACT matching tile for our unusual bathroom tiles, on sale, in a warehouse in NJ. That enabled us to repair damage around the shower faucets
    caused by the previous owners, move ill-placed towel racks and a damaged soap dish, and fix the stupid placement of the shut-off valves under the sink. When we found the tiles our tiler said not to get our hopes up because the color would probably not match exactly, but they do!

    We also found a very cool metal medicine cabinet on bulk trash night (we had it chromed and it looks great, as well as a crane sink on CraigsList for $35.

    We'll soon be redoing our kitchen with the original cabinets and hope the renovation gods will signal their approval of that process, as well.

    Again thanks for all the work you do to post.

    1. hi Cara! Welcome! Nice to meet you and thank you for your comment. I can only imagine the sheer thrill of finding the tile that matched. Sounds like you definitely have some house angels too!!


Welcome! Thank you for leaving a comment; you have no idea how much your comments inspire me to keep writing- I appreciate each and every one. Comments are moderated by me prior to publishing on the blog, so if you don't see your comment post immediately it will be posted as soon as I receive it and read it. joan