Once upon a time, there was a quirky little unused space under the staircase at the farm.
This spot had held nothing but an old piano for decades. (the piano came with the house, so I still have it)
As I spent months stripping off the layers of wallpaper in the entryway, I considered the best use for the space. I wanted to build a powder room, but there wasn't enough room.
Then one day, while doing repairs in the kitchen, we had the great idea to move the doorway a few feet to the right, and create a space large enough for a tiny powder room. It was an exciting moment!
(repairing the plaster walls, and painting over the green paint is also pretty exciting!)
I had a really clear vision on how I wanted to decorate the powder room. YEARS ago,Pam Garrison decorated the back of her craft closet with a patchwork of vintage papers, and I was so inspired. I have always wanted to do that, somewhere, somehow. I have dozens of rolls of vintage papers, collected over the years for art projects, and the farm was a "worthy" place to use my precious hoard. I started rolling the papers out in the dining room and weighing them down with scraps of wood to flatten them out. I hung the papers fairly randomly, but did consider the colors and pattern, and tried to come up with a visually pleasing design.
I decided to hang the paper with the seams showing, so that you could read the borders. I really like it that way. I had the old wood floors refinished in the powder room before I started hanging the paper, and I did all the paper before the plumbers came in. It was much easier to work without a sink and toilet in the way.
These old papers are very difficult to work with, and are not prepasted. My favorite paper was so old and fragile, that it ripped in half. I just hung it up anyway!
This room is tiny, but it took me WEEKS to complete. I think I obsessed too much. Also, everyone that saw it, hated it. That sort of shook my confidence. I'm glad I kept going!:)
My electrician rewired and hung an old metal tole floral chandelier that I painted white. My plumber installed a petite pedestal sink, and a round toilet, to save every inch of space we could.
The carpentry work is being completed this week...baseboards, door and trim. We are re-using an old door that was originally in a back room of the house...it is a bit short, and has 6 panels, so it is perfect for this space. (I painted it PINK!) We built a shelf/ledge behind the toilet, and I will use that to store extra toilet paper and supplies, in some sort of decorative container.
I absolutely LOVE the way this room turned out, and it's going to be so helpful to have a bathroom on the first floor of the house! I will post photos when it is all completed!!
It is with great sadness, that I am taking down this gorgeous, original, dining room wallpaper. I absolutely fell in love with this paper the moment I saw it...pink flowers, birds, butterflies..all in the most beautiful colors. This is the first photo I ever took of the dining room...the floral paper was covered in another wallpaper, a gold geometric pattern, but you can see a bit of the floral peeking out from underneath to the left side of the fireplace.
One of my first projects was stripping off the gold wallpaper to expose the lovely floral wallpaper. I had hoped the floral would have been in better shape.
Unfortunately, through the years, the plaster walls have cracked and crumbled, there are many water stains from a leaky roof, and the paper is beyond repair. (You can see the living room across the hall with it's original wallpaper before I removed it)
I decided that this would be the LAST paper I removed, and I have enjoyed the faded beauty for the past 9 months. We opened up the fireplace, and my stone masons were able to seal, repair, and stucco over the old brick, making it look a lot cleaner.
I may put tile around it, or paint it...not sure yet.
There are a few "good" areas of the wallpaper without stains or cracks, and I am removing them ever so carefully.
I will frame a section of this paper and hang it in this room, to cherish and remember.
So this is where I will be for the next few weeks...stripping off the faded past, and preparing this room for a shiny future!
My old farmhouse has 6 fireplaces, none of which were in working, useable condition. The fireplaces had been used to burn coal, and all but one had been boarded up. I wanted to clean up/fix up all of the fireplaces, and rebuild one so that we could actually use it to burn wood and have a fire. I decided that the family room fireplace was the most useful, and over the past 2 weeks it has been rebuilt, and refaced with stacked rock. Here is the progress...This is the family room last summer after I first bought the house. We had removed the dropped 8 foot ceiling, and brought the room back to it's original 11 foot ceiling. You can see that the original ceiling was a mess! Layers of wallpaper, and plaster walls were hiding the chimney.
Later in the summer, we removed the walls, ceiling, and the floor. We got under the house, jacked it up, and replaced the supporting floor joists-making everything safe and straight and level once again. You can see the full fireplace at this point. (don't worry, I saved the mantle!)
We repaired everything structurally, and then ran electrical, then insulated, then hung sheetrock. New plywood subflooring was installed. New windows were also ordered and have been installed.
To rebuild the fireplace I hired two brothers who were experienced masons. They were also very kind.
We bought 3 1/2 tons of Tennessee stacked rock...
and this is what they did...first they cemented over all of the old bricks and installed firebricks in the actual fireplace. They installed a damper, and then they marked the dimensions of the fireplace with strings (leveled) up to the ceiling.
As they began laying the stone, they asked me to go outside and walk around the farm and find a special rock that could be placed in the fireplace. They said "we want you to have a rock from your land, in your fireplace. Someday you will stand here with your grandchildren and tell them the story of this rock". That made me cry. I found a beautiful piece of pink rose quartz out by the lake. They showed me how to trowel the mortar, and let me place the stone in the fireplace. Like I said, they were very kind.
We took 2 original beams from the house and installed then on each side of the chimney, and they applied the stone around them to secure them. These 2 beams will be used to support the mantle, which will be a huge old beam from one of the barns.
They used cement blocks to build up the original brick chimney and make it larger for the stone.
This is the fireplace today...the stone work is complete, and the hearth has been built.
They will be back next week to clean all the mortar off of the bricks, and spiff it up a bit. The mortar at the top of the chimney is still wet, and so it looks dark grey. When it dries, it will be pale, like it is at the bottom. My carpenters will be cutting a beam to size and installing it to make the mantle. I am happy with the way this has turned out...a bit rustic...but I think that's what is appropriate for an old country home. They have also refinished the other 5 fireplaces...but that's another post :)
edit: fireplace after it was acid washed to remove all of the mortar from the stones...
Every day I seem to find a new treasure here at the farm...a candy striped Camellia blooming in the side yard, tiny Spring Snowflakes (leucojum) popping up by the house, and even this tiny glass bottle found in the woods...the neck is broken yet still so perfect to hold these blooms. Yesterday I received one of the greatest gifts of all...a phone call from a descendant of this farm. He was delightful, and shared so much information of his family history. He sent me emails of articles written about this property...wedding announcements, and accounts of the people and crops...true treasures. My favorite gift might be that he gave me a NAME...the name of this "country home" as it was called in articles dated from the 1890's...it was called "OAK GROVE". I love it! I had been thinking of a name for this home, and never quite decided on the perfect one. Now it is settled, and it seems so right. I will continue on with the name that was given over a century ago. Thank you Dan! Please come visit Oak Grove anytime...
Here is a family wedding announcement that appeared in the local newspaper dated June 18, 1896. The brides name was Pearl!
It describes Oak Grove as "one of the loveliest country homes in the county". I hope to some day make it that way again:)
Jackson Argus Week of June 18, 1896 LEACH – CARMICHAEL The Beautiful Wedding Was Solemnized at High Noon Yesterday The wedding of Miss Pearl Carmichael and Mr. Joe M. Leach was solemnized yesterday noon at the home of the bride near Jackson, the Rev. Jno. Speer of Stone Mountain officiating. The home of Mr. and Mrs. D. N. Carmichael never looked more beautiful, nestled as it is, in a beautiful grove of oaks, from which it takes its name, “Oak Grove”, the same being famous as one of the loveliest country homes in Butts County and owned by one of the most prominent and wealthiest planters of this section of the State. The decorations were very beautiful and tasteful and everything seemed to conspire together in making the hour one great joy and gayety. The bride was lovely attired in a pretty tailor made traveling suit of gray and blue cloth, and she never looked prettier, and with the handsome and distinguished looking bridegroom by her side covenanting an everlasting love and protection to his bride, made the union a living picture of poesy, and dreams of perpetual happiness and joy. Precisely at high noon the groom with his bride on his arm appeared in the beautiful drawing room where awaited the minister and a large concourse of relative and friends of the contracting parties. Very soon after the wedding ceremony the spacious dining hall of the Carmichael home was thrown open to the invited guests, and tables laden with all sorts of lovely things eatable, weir made the victim of a wedding party. Mrs. D. N. Carmichael assisted by Mrs. H. E. and J. B. Settle, Mrs. Rose Carmichael and Mrs. P. H. Watkins proved to be hostesses of the most elegant kind. The bride is a very lovely lady of less than twenty years, and numbers her friends by the score. The groom Mr. Joe M. Leach, is a worthy and honorable citizen of Griffin and a member of the leading grocery firm of that city. The bride and groom left in the afternoon for Griffin where they will make their future home. The guest present were: Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Daughtry, Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Carmichael, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Curry, Mr. and Mrs. Jno. B. Settles, Mr. and Mrs. P. R. Watkins and family, Mr. and Mrs. Joe S. Ham, Mr. and Mrs. F. S. Etheridge, Mr. and Mrs. Jno. Huff of Griffin, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Carmichael; Mesdames N. E. Settles, Rose Carmichael, S. G. Etheridge, W. F. Lee, Mary Heflin, Mr. Walker Moore, with Miss Annie Carmichael, Misses Agness Carmichael, Myrtis Peavy, Eva Sassnett, Mary Goodall, Rosa Thornton, Annie Wright, Emma Ezell, Edna Madden, of Concord, Mary Harkness, Mary Brooks of Griffin, Judie Brooks, Sallie Saunders, Susie Manley, Geneva Carmichael, Messrs. C. C. Smith, Joe Wright, E. P. Bridges of Griffin, Claud Hutchinson of Atlanta, Mr. R. T. Watkins, B. F. Watkins, Joe Carmichael of Molena, Cliff Ford of Griffin, Walter Carmichael, Van Fletcher, W. G. Goodrich, Lem and Harrris Carmichael,
It's taken months of work, and I'm excited to say, the upstairs is completed! Oh a few minor details remain, and I still need FURNITURE :), but the hard work is over! I am starting a gallery wall...
The antique heart pine floors just GLOW! They turned out better than I could have ever expected...I am thrilled!
I had every room painted the same color for continuity, and the pale cream color really lets the floors shine, and be the focal point.
I needed so many light fixtures, that I was overwhelmed. I ended up buying very inexpensive lights at Home Depot for all of the bedrooms. They can be replaced if/when I find a flea market treasure!
A few light fixtures are extra special...this chandelier was purchased on a trip to New Orleans to visit my son last month. He is living and working in Louisiana, and took me to some fabulous antique shops. I love having this chandelier in my home as a souvenir of my trip. My electricians rewired it, and it's perfect in the hallway over the staircase.
I designed these custom beadboard bookcases around the chimneys in each bedroom. My carpenters did an amazing job building them, and I think they look as if they could have been an original feature of the house.
I was fortunate to find a wonderful painter, with such attention to detail. Her meticulous painting makes everything look perfect!
I am so thrilled with the finished product! I love bringing this old farmhouse back to life.
Now comes to best part...decorating with vintage finds!
This is the first picture I took of the upstairs hallway at the farm house. My crew had already gotten to work, and had removed a wall. Unfortunately, I don't have a "before" photo of the upstairs including the wall, so imagine a wall extending the full width of the hallway, right where the wallpaper stops on both sides . I am guessing the wall was constructed sometime in the 1970's, to provide a 5th bedroom. We tore the wall down and restored the hallway to it's original layout. This opened up the space and allowed the light from the window to shine in. Removing that wall made a HUGE difference! My initial plan was to keep all of the existing walls and ceilings in the upstairs, and just repair them. This would have saved a LOT of time, and money on labor and materials. Unfortunately, as we started to build the bathroom and demolished a wall, we changed our plan. All of the walls and ceilings were plaster, but many had one or two layers of sheetrock on them. The ceilings were heavy and sagging, and really not safe...they had to go. And so the demolition began. (I had my crew save 100's of plaster slats from the ceilings-you can see them stacked in the corner-and we made them into giant stars at Christmas!)
Unfortunately, the walls were just as bad as the ceilings. Once we removed ONE wall, we saw years of debris behind it (and NO insulation), and decided to GUT the ENTIRE upstairs, and build it back. That was a BIG decision, but I know now, it was the right one. We filled 7 dumpsters in total, with sheetrock, plaster, and DIRT! We positioned the dumpster outside a bedroom window, and tossed our debris from the roof!
It was a long, hard, DIRTY process.
The boys escaped to the roof for some fresh air, and I crawled out there to take their picture. That is my son, with his AT trail beard-he worked at the farm for a few months after he returned from his hike.
Once the upstairs was gutted and cleaned, we reinforced/replaced the studs as needed, so the new walls would be straight.
Then we framed out closets and bookcases around the chimneys that were in all 4 bedrooms.
We had all of the electrical and HVAC installed while the walls were open. Then we insulated the walls. After the ceilings were installed, insulation was blown in the attic. The original beams in the house were huge, and made from trees cut down on the property...some still had BARK on them! We kept them all.
Then, sheetrock was installed...
Then came tape, mud, sanding and priming. New windows were installed, and then my guys built custom wood trim to match all of the original trim in the house. Then came a very exciting part... we had the antique heart pine floors sanded down. I had been hoping the floors would look nice, under years of paint and varnish, but they were prettier than I could have imagined!
The floors were sanded and varnished twice, and then we covered them up with drop cloths, and painted the walls/ceiling/trim. Everything was primed, and then received 2 coats of paint. The walls are painted with Glidden "Heavy Cream" in an eggshell finish. The trim got 3 coats of Gloss White paint. It took almost a month to complete the painting.
Then we worked on the staircase railing and banister... which took several weeks to complete. Lots of tedious sanding /priming/painting on those spindles!
While I worked on the railing, the electricians hung all the lights, and installed the switches and receptacles. When the banister was complete, the floors received one last light sanding, and a third coat of polyurethane, in a satin finish. I'll show you the "after" in my next post...