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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects

February, 2006


February 1 -Full House


I had a meeting with Axel on the first day of February and the place was full: three painters, a tiler, an electrician and two or three carpenters. It was certainly encouraging to see so much activity.

Here's a less-than-perfect pan of the living room. It was looking more and more finished.

And a detail of the picture trim. This was a novel technology for our crew, an idea brought over from the New World.

Meanwhile, I peeked at the terrazzo floor and the wax polish surface was there .

The tile in the downstairs bathroom was getting done. I suppose the "niche" will take as much time as the rest!


Out in the kitchen, the plastic was off the beams and the paint seemed almost finished.

We even had a real back door!


Upstairs, the old wood on the landing had been removed. It will be replaced with pieces out of the barn loft to keep the old feel.


The bedrooms were also looking closer and closer to being done. The under-window shelves still need to appear, as well as edge trim and a finish on the floors, but it was close!


February 4-Another Architect Check


Another Saturday and another meeting with our architect. I had just read an article that a house remodel requires from 1,000 to 2,000 decisions and we had another hundred to make. I had lost my enthusiasm for this whole process but Marianne and Axel seemed to carry on.


The terrazzo entry looked pretty good as did all the room colors. In the daylight, the upstairs bedroom color looked even better than the night before. I considered this something close to a miracle after all the test panels.



Out in the kitchen, we have a real back door, with our first hint of the final color on the outside. This dark red-brown will be the color of the shutters and the outside of the front and back doors. Now, all we need is some time above freezing so the outside wall can be repaired and painted.




So, it continues. The promise was for more carpenter work this coming week. After that, more tile, more plumbing, more electrical, more paint. Lots of "more". We'll see.

February 8 & 9-A Mid-Week Check


Sure enough, there were news signs of progress, upstairs at least. Wednesday evening, I could see that the heating pipes in the bedrooms were finally covered over. In the pictures, this looks easy enough, but with our old walls, these base-board are anything but straight!


Thursday morning, Axel was explaining to Mr. Spoerlein how we want our thresholds to be level, a feature that will require yet more custom carpentry.

Much of the remaining work will be this same sort of thing: custom work to allow an old house to work like the new one we want. This is one reason why we are still a month and a half from moving in.


February 10 and 11 - A standard Weekend


It seems like all our weekends anymore are devoted to decisions on the house. This Saturday was no exception.

In the Winter sun, the outside views look better than they did earlier in the week's snow flurries. It would be nicer if we didn't have the iron exoskeleton, but that will have to stay until the weather improves.

In the kitchen, the beams had been darkened and they contrasted starkly with the pale walls. In this case, I expressed my doubts, but it doesn't really matter. What's done was done.

We'll see how this all fits after we install the over-size cooking range and the rest of the furniture.


Upstairs, Marianne's bathroom tiles were also half done. Here, she expressed he doubts about the relatively big tiles in a relatively small room.



The floors upstairs had also been worked on, in this case the carpenters had cut slits where cracks were and filled in with slices of wood. Later, the whole surface would be ground flat again. The plan was to finish this soon, so we could let the painters back in and actually finish some rooms.




After visiting the house, we went over to visit M. Schlicht, our lock-restorer. He greeted us in Hungarian, much to Marianne's surprise. They exchanged their pleasantries in that very foreign tongue. As usual, I understood nothing. It seems Mr. Schlicht had run away from home as a youth and ended up at a friend's home in Budapest. He had not had an opportunity to practice his Hungarian in 16 years but, now, these crazy Americans were giving him a chance. In fact, we shifted to English because I am worthless in Hungarian and because Mr. Schlicht wanted to practice that as well. His English was rusty, but far better than my German!


Mr Schlicht had taken seven of our dirty and corroded old door locks, like on the left, and made them functional. The oldest was the one on the right, which he estimated was from the late 1700's, probably an original on our house.

By now, he had made a workbench full of restored locks:

In fact, we may even have him restore the last two, just so we can have them as conversation pieces.


We also snooped through his "future" furniture projects. He has several derelict and very old cabinets and trunks for which he has a passion for authentic restoration. We've seen the restored furniture in his own house, and each was a museum piece, not "re-built", but rather restored to look as they were 200 or 300 years earlier. I suspect that, after we recover from current expenses, a "new" cabinet or trunk would be in order.


February 15 - A Slippery Start


The idea today was for a relatively quick check of a few things with Axel and then off to work. Things turned out more complicated.

First, I stepped out into the hotel parking area and fell flat. The bricks were evenly covered with crystal clear ice. This picture was the test of my camera after it crashed next to me. While the plastic lens shade had shattered, the rest of the machine seemed fine, a tribute to solid Canon cameras. The cameraman was OK too, a tribute to luck.


By the time I got over to the house, there were a half-dozen trucks and cars out front. Inside were two painters, one tile setter, two electricians, two carpenters, a window man and the architect. The locksmith came later. Now, our house is really not very big, so squeezing everyone in was a real trick. Just getting everybody's tool boxes open took up the whole living room. All this activity should produce measurable results this week. I'll stop by again on Friday afternoon on my way to our "other home". It's my turn to make the weekend drive.


When Mr. Schlicht arrived, he showed off the new cover he made the day before for the oldest of our locks. He engraved it on old iron, using 200-year-old tools and techniques. It looked like it had been there forever. Our carpenter, Mr. Spoerlein, was enthusiastic about putting Mr. Schlicht's craftsmanship on display on the old doors. Talking about these details makes it seem like the end of restoration is close. Knock on wood.

Speaking of wood, the upstairs floors were almost done. They'd been patched, filled, and sanded. The rooms have been turned back to the painters and I expect that work will be done quickly.



The weather here is changing too. It's a bad news, good news deal however. First, we are supposed to get heavy rains, something the outside of our house isn't really finished enough for. That's the bad news. The good news is that, if the rains do no serious damage, the warming temperatures might allow the outside to get finished and the scaffolding to come down, finally revealing our jewel box. We'll see.

February 17 - Photo Summary


By Friday, I was headed up to Giessen and I made a picture survey to show Marianne that the project was making progress. Here's what I saw:


Entrance hall.

Living Room

Living Room


Into Kitchen.

Kitchen (bad photo-stitch)

Master bedroom

Guest bedroom

Marianne's bath





February 19 - Belgium Tiles


This was a three-day weekend and we took the chance to look in Belgium for some antique details for the house. Our goal was the big Sunday antique market at Tongeren, but that turned out a bit disappointing. The pickings were limited and our feet were freezing so we left mostly empty-handed. However, while there we saw an advertisement for an old tile store so we stopped by "just to look".

What we found was a huge selection of old tiles, presumably rescued from old Belgium homes and buildings. It's probably a good thing we didn't see these before, because we may have changed our whole decorating scheme. I know this turn-of-the-last century art work isn't accurate fro our even older home, but there was a sense of an old world nonetheless.

Attached to the store, was a small tile museum, suitable to get us thinking we MUST find a place for some of this. Some showcases were filled with elaborate and colorful border patterns while others were art pieces as elaborate as paintings.







What finally caught our attention was a single, blue, flowered tile. We combined that with a field of blue tiles with smaller flowers and a border of yet another color blue. This "picture" would become the wall in back of our (blue) kitchen range. Here Marianne is helping select the tiles. (Apologies for the bad quality picture. It was a cold day and my hands and brain were frozen.)


So, it seems our trip to find antique details wasn't a bust after all. We may not have planned exactly what we got, but sometimes it's better to let events take over plans. Now, if we can just get this to fit in the right place.


February 23 - A couple Doors


I stopped by the house Thursday evening, after traveling for a week.

Going in the front door, I almost missed the new door behind our temporary construction door. The "new" door is the rebuild of the original door that involved taking the old one apart and laminating it on top of a new door. This made the old door as strong and air-tight as a modern door. Maybe it even made it TOO much like a new door, but there really was no choice, given the functional need for a front door.




Back in the kitchen, Mr. Schlicht was just finishing his work with our old Chinese door. He had built an iron rail system that looked as old as the door. In this case, new looked old already. Nice work.








February 25 - Another Weekend


We had another Saturday meeting with Axel. We each had a list of things to cover and, even after a couple hours, I'm not sure we covered everything we needed However, by then, we were all tired.

Here's a a few house parts we saw.

Our surprise for Axel and Mr Kral was our tile back splash for the range area.

Mr. Kral had just finished the niche in the shower room.

The new kitchen tiles are about all he has left.

Meanwhile, the upstairs bath was pretty much done. Marianne even tried out her tub, but I was too slow with the camera to catch her. The old bedroom doors were going in too. These doors still show their age, although the carpenters have restored their function. We can't wait for all the old hardware to go on too.


After the working meeting at our house, Axel gave a quick visit to a couple of his other projects. The first one held the archives of the city of Bamberg. It had originally been a hospital before it was abandoned for several years. Restoration was a multi-million euro project and quite impressive. Of course it was fun to hear Axel's enthusiasm too.



February, 2006


Diaries - Travel

House Story Home

Between House And Barn Projects
The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects