My Olde House

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     I love old houses. So when I found this diamond in the rough for sale about 20 years ago, , and it came with lots of acreage...The fact that I lived in a state 1200 miles away didn't sway me, nor did the holes in the floor,  the caved in porch , the cracked plaster and the mushrooms growing in the walls of the so called "kitchen" .  It has taken many years to get it this far, and there is a long way to go, but we love our little Ochre Moon Manor.

How could I pass up a view like this, even though the house was a wreck?

 

For the love of an old house, a woodland path and a barn full of critters.

Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated and in love with those old houses. My mothers friend, Anna, lived in a big Victorian in Historic downtown Denver and I loved our visits to her home. Anna had little clay pots of African Violets sitting neatly, all in a row, on her Kitchen windowsill. She had a small herb garden outside the kitchen door, it was the first time I had ever tasted a leaf of peppermint. Inside the house were mellow and worn wooden floors and twisty stairways with ornately turned spindles and ceilings that went up, up and up!

 The house had a different feel to it, not a museum, but a well-loved and lived- in home. It had a certain personality that newer houses lacked. All these years later, I still remember that house and the warmth it invoked. That's the thing about old houses... they impart the mystery of a past era that simply cannot be duplicated.

I remember also, a farm, one of the few left in the newly developed Suburbia we called home. This House was a 2 story white farmhouse with an enormous red barn and lots of  black and white cows , a few chocolate brown mares, fat blond hens and a red rooster that crowed and crowed!  I loved that place. It was an Oasis in a sea of cookie cutter houses. I always asked my mother to slow down when we passed by, so I could savor the vision of the past that I imagined in my "Little house on the Prairie" mind-set. For those were some of the books I savored, the history books, the stories of the Pioneers, the Indians, and all the people that lived long before us.... this is where my imagination dwelt.

 My mother was just like me in that respect. She never got her OLD house, but she took her little cookie cutter house and transformed it within and without. She tore out walls, had wooden beams stretched across the ceilings, added fretwork and a lovely little porch, put up window boxes and planted tulips. Her house was filled with the antiques she collected over the years. With braided and rag rugs lain upon the wooden floors, with quilts on every bed, the house was sheer coziness. This was LONG before country "decorating" came into style. Mom was WAY ahead of all that. She bought a 1920 gas kitchen stove and had it restored to use in her kitchen. Even her fridge was vintage 1930, and all her cooking implements were vintage.  She even had my father line a wall with bricks so that she could put in a cast iron stove to heat the house and cook popcorn  (in an antique corn popper that you shook back and forth with a long handle).   Dad willingly obliged, because he, too, loved the past, in fact, he built a little log cabin in the back yard! Mom made her new house OLD. But I wanted the real thing.

As a young wife, I did not have my old house, but never stopped dreaming of it. My copies of Early American Life Magazine and Country Living were in tatters for all my  dozens of visits to their pages. Pages filled with fabulous old Federal houses, Victorians ,English cottages, Capes and even the beloved Log Cabin, fueled my desire for the Old house and the farm,( replete with all the critters I could stand) and I  would someday have. And then, one day, there it was!

I jokingly call our house "the Manor", but it is hardly what one would think of as a manor house,,,, more of a cottage in reality. A simple box of a house, sort of a four square, but with a much steeper hipped roof than a typical four square, with colonial revival elements like round southern style pillars which hold up the wraparound porch. Rather a plain Jane in truth, a simple straightforward, honest house.  Built around 1890, neglected for many years and in need of  some serious help, the Manor was just begging for someone to love her again. That would be me.

I really wanted to make this house special ,add some charm, make it OURS.

Here is a BEFORE picture.

 Poor old thing! Her list of ailments were too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say, my work was cut out for me. Shortly after moving here, from clear across the country, life passed me some lemons and I ended up as a divorced, single mother of two young boys. As an artist, the going was sometimes rough and for more years than I care to remember, the boys and I "toughed it out" in a cold house whose pipes froze and broke at least 3 times each winter. There were rooms whose floors could not be trusted lest you  fall right through and a kitchen which can only be described as primitive. Since funds were limited, my poor old house remained in sorry shape, even though I loved her dearly and always knew that someday, someday, she would be revived. I was able to fix small things here and there, but it wasn't until 9 years later, when I met and married my dear James, that things really began to take shape.

And now this old house is  quite a cozy home.

 

And, as soon as I find those BEFORE pictures, I will show you what a sad place it actually was!

Gus and Woodrow were very happy here until they discovered the wild turkey ladies in the woods and ran away from home.

Inside the house, I use a combination of styles. Most every piece of furniture is antique, for that is what I love. And my husband James indulges my taste, I think he has actually begun to like this style as well.

Our "Keeping Room" is a combination kitchen and living area.

The stove was a real wonderful find off of Craigs List. I couldn't believe we bought this Heartland stove ( normally a  $6000 stove) for a fraction of the cost because the homeowner was redoing her kitchen in a contemporary style and just wanted to get the stove out of her house!

 

All the crocks on top are old, most did not have the labels, But I found antique labels while antiquing, and applied them to the crocks. Everything is put to use. These jars contain tea bags, sweeteners, coffee, etc.

That old stuffed rooster in the basket? I never knew him! I bought him, just like that, at an antique shop.

 This is my view from the kitchen window. Will you look at those weeds!!! Well, they aren't all weeds..

 

The maple "kitchen cabinet" ( later known as Hoosiers) was a common item in the late 1800's and all the way to the 1930's.Everything from flour sifters to spice racks were built into these compact cupboards. this one also has a potato bin and 3 "pull out" cutting boards.

Old Heinz crocks are wonderful when put to use. They contained all manner of preserves in sizes up to 5 gallons. The lithographic labels are hard to come by, as they have usually faded and disappeared over the years.

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 You can barely see the remains of the pickle label on the middle crock and the others have gone entirely. I have more of these in the barn, because they make great storage for chicken scratch and goat cookies!

This is my favorite part of the room. The old oak mantle is great. I love decorating it with little wooden birds and acorns and old pewter tea pots. The wonderful Civil War painting was done by my friend Marc Daniels, a marvelous folk painter. When I bought this house, this was actually a bedroom. But I tore out a wall between this and the "kitchen" area, to create a larger "Keeping Room".

 Our Parlor

 

Because this was such a squishy little room, we removed the walls between the parlor and the "living room". Of course, we could not remove these supporting beams but they make beautiful basket holders, I will never forget knocking out these walls, plaster and lathe everywhere. My sons and I did it on a hot summer day with sledgehammers and crowbars, it was really quite fun!

 

I remember well, tearing up this floor. First was the horrid, filthy avocado green carpet, underneath was Linoleum, underneath that was plywood... Oh where,, oh where was that Heart pine floor I longed to see??? NO WHERE! the pine floor beneath was rotted wood on an entire side of the room. The other side fared far better, it was wormy chestnut and just required a little sanding and stain and varnish.

These walls are all stenciled in a red and blue Patriotic pattern . The Samplers are a combination of olde and new. Some created by me, others by friends. When I moved into this house, every single wall was painted lime green, I kid you not! There must have been a sale on that paint, or the owners didn't realize the color, for they were quite old.

All the ceilings had been sprayed with that horrid bumpy texture stuff. I scraped off every single inch off every single ceiling!

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All the dolls are antiques except the dolly in plaid. She looks absolutely ancient from living in this house. WHY? For years and years we had a sulpher well. The sulpher permeated the air in the house P.U.!!!! It seemed to have a very weird affect on anything made of metal, and strangely enough, even that little dolly made of plaster.

 But this lady is my favorite. I call her the Southern Belle. She is a Greiner made between 1840 and 1860. All her clothing is original and she has a perky little smile that I love, black stockings and a petticoat.

Her blouse and shawl were delicately hand-stitched by someone long ago..

The stenciled frieze above the parlor fireplace took about 4 days to complete all around the room. Oh, my legs hurt after climbing up and down that ladder! The pottery is salt glaze stoneware and the coverlet it sits on it dated .The date is woven into the cloth, 1849.

Another fantastic find was this corner cupboard made of black walnut. I have no idea the age of this piece but I am guessing around the mid 1800's. It contains pewter, enamelware and Brittainia-ware teapots that I love to collect.... and use! All the wooden geese sitting atop were created by folk artists I have known through the years. I will show you a wonderful collection of carved birds later on. Most of them are UP THE STAIRS>

 

 

You could say this is the "Americana" room seeing how everything in it is red , white and blue. On the wall is a paper-cutting I did in 2001.

 

to be continued.

 

 

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