Celebrating Our Home's Anniversary this November

I won't bore you with how we found our home.  I did a post a while back on the magical events leading to our finding the house of my dreams.  (For the full story click on "Our Farmhouse" page.)
As My favorite month of the year arrives (born and married in November) I thought I would do a post on the evolution of our home.
We moved into our home in November of 1997.  As I was sifting through my scrapbooks today I came across photos that I have been looking for in an album I had forgotten about.  I was so happy to see that I indeed had photos of the original structure.
I thought I only had a few blurred Polaroids but instead I had pasted many in this album entitled Our New Home.
Unfortunately there were no iPhone, hd photography or downloading ability to protect our memories as we are spoiled in today's world.  My first photos of our house were taken with a Polaroid my husband had in his car.  He had told me to be discreet when we visited the house for the first time as to not appear anxious in front of the owners.  So needless to say I left my own camera at home.  There were no blogs to do posts on in 97 unfortunately.
So tonight I took my iPhone and snapped many photos of the originals that were pasted in my scrapbook.
I thought I'd share them.
But first, here are photos similar to ones I had cut out or folded in a wish box for years.  I dreamed of living in a white and black colonial or federal home since I was old enough to dream.  I grew up in an apartment building and swooned over old photographs of homes just like this one.  They all had similar characteristics.

Shortly after we bought our house my husband showed me this photo.  It was of a home that belonged to someone he knew from work. 

When I saw it I quickly reached for a black sharpie and darkened the roof and wrote our number above the door in hopes that one day our home would resemble it.  
Below are the two first photos that I ever took of our house.  I took them on the day we first went to see it.  I secretly carried the small Polaroid in my purse and took two quick shots without the realtor's knowledge.  

They are blurry and pale but mean so much to me because it was my first glimpse up close of the house.  There was a massive pine tree standing taller than the house directly in front of the main door.  I remember thinking why anyone would have planted a tree so close.  It was an obstruction of a lovely view.  

 The door was stark white like the siding along with it's humble pediment.
After the closing and officially moving in, we made a few little changes.  Below are photos taken after we moved in.   See the tree I was talking about?  
Can you guess the first thing I did after moving in?  
 Yep, I painted the door red.
Another thing that we did right away was pull out these massive hedges.  They were awful.  They housed all kinds of critters and covered so much of the siding and reached mid window in some rooms.

We had our first Christmas and Winter at the house.  Now it's always been a factor when considering a house for me to imagine how the house would look decorated for Christmas.  Does it have places to hang garland? Where will the lights go?  

During the winter of 98 we spent much of our time working inside of the house.  Painting, adding moldings, and simple changes.  Basically after the closing our restoration funds for the house were way down.  So unless changes involved a gallon of paint or some stenciling, (which should never be done in a house and I am still trying to block the memories of my awful stenciling out) it meant waiting quite some time.

Fall of 98 came and we made one small addition.
We added a small portico with two columns and created a stone patterned floor above the two small steps in the entrance.  Although my vision for the front of the house was grand, we had to settle for a smaller version.  
Below, my little one peaks from behind the column.
If photo appears distorted it's because I photographed right from the scrapbook while lifting the page as to not have any reflected light.

Now I am a tree lover.  I will do anything to save a tree but our pine tree was not only obstructing our  view but also my view of the school buses as they brought my boys home and driveway.  So after much deliberation, the tree had to go.  
It made a huge difference.

Above my boys.  
My sons loved the fact that aside from moving into a new home, having four acres and their own rooms, the coolest thing to them was that they lived next door to horses.  My neighbor had two horses for many years.   

The next addition was a deck to the back of the house.  Again it was not the ideal deck in my vision but it worked for us at the time.

In 2003 we began a year process of construction, additions and restorations to our home.  Lets just say it was the longest year of our lives.  
We started with all the good intentions.  A kitchen.  That was a necessity right?  Our kitchen was small and outdated.  We had a cutting board built into the peach stained Formica counter with all the astrology signs. (weird)  Dark paneling and a small window.  Our kitchen was dark and dated.  How can I give you a visual?  We used to refer to our home as Graceland.  But not in a good way.  (If you've ever seen or gone to Graceland, as you walk inside your immediately shocked at how tacky and dark and small the rooms are.  Excessive panelling, shag rugs in hideous colors and low ceilings. Not exactly the house of the King you expected.  So the kitchen was circa late 60's retro.)
BEHOLD  : Graceland Kitchen.  Understand now?

We got some quotes, pulled out photos, collected magazines and made drawings but for me they all had to have a commonalty.  
They had to resemble The Big Chill Kitchen. 
Funny, when I first met Will our architect and his partner  and he said okay do you know what you want?  I shook my head and told him I want a Big Chill kitchen and he said immediately, "oh yeah, definitely."  Haha.

Okay so today this kitchen would be a bit dated but it had the features that I wanted.  I wanted a huge space where light entered from different angles.  I wanted a large center island or a large farmhouse table in the center to serve as an island.  I wanted white cabinets and glass doors so that I could display glasses and pretty plates.  I wanted plenty of work spaces.  Places to roll out cookie doughs or serve coffee while still having room to prepare a turkey and entertain.  Lastly I wanted the kitchen to be the nucleus of the house and  the main center for entertaining and congregating.
I guess it would have been a better year if we hadn't decided to add more to our to do list at one time. In our defense we had access to a wonderful architect on the premises.  We had a construction company that was just starting out, had plenty of talent and had time to work with us.  What would you have done?
While the kitchen was being framed we added a few things:
All new windows.  (Now this was a necessity, our windows were pre dated 1965 so they had flaking and peeling led based paint, rusted windows that wouldn't open and mix matched panes.)
All new siding - decided to use a hardy plank product which in all honesty was a great decision.  Through the years it has held up beautifully.  
The Addition of a Front Porch (more on that later)
The Addition of a carport (forgot: we had converted out garage into a screening room before the kitchen addition for my husband.  He is a film producer and needed a room to screen movies.  (One of the best things we ever did.)

This is why our construction took a year in the making.
Okay I will try to post in a sequential order of some kind. 

First let us begin with the north end of the house -  the kitchen.  (Now unfortunately I didn't take constant photos of the progression.  Wish I had my blog back then and the technology to take quick photos on my phone and download them.  That would have made a great post.)
 This was the framing for Will Hess, our extraordinary architect who clearly was and is a visionary.  (if you look out you can see we had a small shed, our barn didn't exist then, nor did we have the perennial garden with the lattice fencing my husband made for me.)
The cathedral ceiling became a costly burden re-doing the taping every year due to settling and moisture.  But last year our Amish friends took care of the problem by installing beams at the seams. I love it now.  It is consistent with our farmhouse kitchen details and it conveniently hides any cracks in the seams.  

Our back yard was like this for months and months.  Due to heavy rainfall that spring and we were forced to put any outside construction on hold.  I know it was worth it but when I think back about how many microwaved dishes I had to create due to necessity I cringe at the thought.

Our windows open sideways with a rotating handle.  Will's idea was for them to be light and consistent with the open feel of our kitchen.
Then came the hardy plank.  Our old aluminum siding was dated and had its share of wear and tear.  As if the job weren't fastidious and time consuming enough, Will and I had talked about our windows in the house.  It had been decided that all had to be changed and restored.  Sills had to be replaced, heads re done, and new aprons had to be created.  There was a lot of work to be done.  Our kitchen idea expanded into a painstaking and arduous task.  
 All the windows in the house believe it or not were changed in one day.  ONE DAY!
You know most people undergoing massive construction like the one we had deal with it by renting or living in another temporary home, but not us.  We were living in here, in our house.  My babies were here.  My oldest was 13 and my youngest was 7.  It was a nightmare.  The kitchen was shielded with plastic from top to bottom.  I had to manage taking care of my sons, making them breakfast, lunch and dinner each day for at least 8 months without a kitchen sink, a stove, a stove top, a counter top, a kitchen table.  Access to cupboards.  All our can goods and dry foods were placed in our mudroom and dinning room.  Our microwave sat on our dinning room table.  I placed my grill outside by the side of the house to grill whatever I could and create what might resemble a healthy home cooked meal.  I could not bake cookies.  (That to me should have been the deal breaker.)  I could not bake pies.  I COULD NOT BAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For days after the windows were installed we had to fight bees and wasps and flying bugs that had flown into the house.  It was insane.  Our driveway had two dumpsters filled with debris.  I constantly vacuumed my sons' rooms and upstairs every day and mopped after the workers left.  I was so afraid they were breathing in toxic fumes and air born matter like asbestos and lead dust.  I talk to my friend Catherine about that all the time.  She is doing her home and has had the luxury of creating a "green environment" with building materials and new methods of construction.  In 2003 people were just becoming aware of the notion that green was more than a color.
I remember asking one of the workers about my windows and basement.  I had been consumed with doing radon studies and reading about lead based paints being in homes that were built before 1970's.  I recall he looked at me with one eyebrow raised as I asked him about the likelihood of lead dust lingering in the house after the new windows were installed.  He said "Lady a little lead won't hurt anyone, look at me."  Exactly, I remember thinking.   So I was back to vacuuming and mopping daily.  I went through three vacuum cleaners that year.  (I have a thing with changing my vacuum cleaners. It drives my husband bonkers.
Then one day I can remember getting home with the kids from school, parking in the grass, reaching over to help them with their book bags when Matt, my youngest yelled "wow mom look at our house."  I don't remember what happened next (perhaps I passed out on the ground and that's why I have trouble recalling my next steps) but I know I felt like the end was near.  I felt elated.  It was starting to look like the house I envisioned as a young girl looking out of my apartment window thinking, " will I ever have a house of my own?".
Whenever you find yourself in the middle of a construction project and you utter those words or even think them, and I'm referring to "the end is finally near" words, beware.  You have already determined your fate.  It's gonna get ugly.
Okay so back to my amazing architect.  Standing in front of my house after it was sporting it's Tyvek overcoat, I did the unthinkable.
As he asked me if I was happy with everything I hesitated and said "You know Will, I think a deep porch would make the house look much more inviting don't you think?
Now anyone who knows me can tell you I'm obsessed with the south.  I know in another life I was Scarlett.  Totally.
So as much as I love New England architecture and colonial and federal style homes (they are my favorite) I am a sucker for a deep porch.  Needless to say I could never speak of having wrap around porch without hyperventilating.
I felt that the house with it's four acres and line of pines  (I named my home Pinerowe) would be lacking without it.
He began to sketch right on top of the hood of his car and I started clapping as he waved his pencil across the foundation drawing a deep plantation style porch.  It was done.  Now If only I could break the news to my husband.
After I talked my husband out of serving me with divorce papers we agreed the porch would add character to our little homestead.  So another permit was needed.  I exhaled and smiled as I read through and studied the final plans for the porch.  Should not have done that!

We live in a historic area and everything, every detail, every addition has to be consulted, approved and determined by the historical board.  One morning after the foundation was framed and dug we were greeted with a post on our property.  Cease and Desist letter.  It held us back for two weeks.  In the meantime copies of plans, meetings and phone calls were taking place while I was surrounded by a muddy mess.  The rains came once again and we were at a standstill with resuming the porch construction.  
Thankfully a few weeks later after approvals were given by the board, the construction continued.
I wish I had met Catherine and Mike back then when we were in the planning stages.  Would love to have had their input although our architect was determined to be period correct and historically accurate and it was in his vernacular to discuss any details I had seen in old architecture books.  But truth be told, would have loved to know then what I do now.  Would it have made a huge difference?  I don't know.

If there are any men reading this please stop.  I have noticed that men who have a love for carpentry and architecture cringe when I reveal that I had my porch floor removed.  Originally it was constructed using Mahogany as pictured above.  Today our porch floor is a (I'm whispering) faux composite.  In my defense the mahogany was to soft and did not age well.  Every brush stroke, every marking and dent given by the years of usage looked awful.  

Next came the Columns.
I truly loved the plantation style feel it gave the house but it wouldn't be practical for us to keep it without having railings.  We knew we would always have pets and I could never be away from sitting on the porch on a beautiful sunny day.

 Then came  the painting and addition of shutters.  (notice the west wing has no shutters in this photo.  They came after I just couldn't find photos of it complete.)  * Again I'm lifting the page of the scrap book to snap the photo so if the photo looks crooked it's because of that.

We opted for a red brick landing with blue stone for the steps.  
Shortly after the railings were installed and landscaping was later leveled and graded and grass was planted.  We also planted Hydrangea bushes all around the perimeter of the house. ( My fav.)

Were we finished?  No.  

Then came the barn.  http://leeshideaway.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-foundation-of-barn.html  Click here to read about the barn project and then below about the study.  

Are we done?  Probably not.  Am I content, more than I can believe.  I am humbled and thankful every time I turn unto my road and drive down my driveway and catch a glimpse of my home.  Our home is not perfect, it is not huge, it is not the most beautiful, and yes there were many things we could have done differently, but at the end of the day. . .  it is home.  

The place that comforts me, where I seek refuge after an exhausting and stressful day.  It is where the the sounds of my children growing up echoes throughout the rooms.  It is where dings and scratches reveal a life made, a family created and it is where love has lived and grown.  I think of all the homeless, refugees and those never having their own place and I am in awe of the blessings I have been given.  I never ever take anything for granted.  

"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it."  George Moore

I also am thankful for this blog and all of you.


Catherine said...

I LOVE THIS! I had no idea you went through so much with your house renovation! I am so glad you did this post. And you did a beautiful job creating your home - envisioning what could be, seeing it through. It's a magnificent and grand home and how wonderful for your boys to have grown up there. And how wonderful for them to return. There's nothing like having a childhood home to love and nurture you, no matter how old you are. xoxoxoxoxoxo

Kathleen George said...

I haven't comment for awhile, but this lovely post is a tribute to your home, your family home. Beautifully written! I enjoy reading your blog and Catherines. Both of you love your families and your homes. Very touching, Kathleen in Az
Perfect for your son's wedding and love the barn, flowers, and well everything!

Stephen Andrew said...

What a wonderful post! I can relate as I always dreamed of a white colonial with black shutters, too. Though I want a blue door :) and my qualifications are all the same. I love the holidays and can't help but consider them heavily in such decisions. How fascinating to watch your home evolve. The Big Chill kitchen is timeless to me and I see that sensibility in your house. I understand your choice to have a porch floor with less maintenance...it just makes the porch all the more livable. I just loved reading this. How encouraging to read about someone with wishes so close to mine living them!
I can't help but admit that I am so curious about the astrological countertops! That is so funny.

Lee said...

Thank you so much for your comments. Stephen, I wish I had a photo of the tacky kitchen. What the heck were they thinking? It was glass on the top overlay over a painted circle with all the astrological signs all around and it was laying inside the formica with a silver sealed rim around it. I can't tell you how many times I was cooking and broke into singing "suspicious minds". Elvis was in the building! LOL
Love when someone gets me!

Brenda said...

I have long admired your home when it has been featured on your blog. It is perfection to me, and I particularly love your kitchen. I don't know what changes you might have made or will make in the future, but I think it is wonderful as it is now.

lala said...

This is such a lovely post - you endured so much for so long, but in the end you have truly created a haven for your family.

Lynn Williamson said...

Hi! I love the addition that you did to your house. I also love the columns. Your house is beautiful. Adding or remodeling a house can be costly, but in the end it does make houses beautiful. I hope to have a house as beautiful as yours someday. Have a nice day!

Lynn Williamson @ DAL Builders

Julia Stewart said...

Wow, that's a beautiful home! I'm in awe of your scrapbooking, by the way. I have stacks of photos from the 90s that just never got sorted and placed into books. I love seeing the progression of the changes, and how you made the home your own. You've got great taste!

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