Before & After & After Again, Part I: Water & Warmth

I named this series of posts with so many “afters” because I feel like things have gotten better and better the 8 years we have lived in our house. Things have changed and we have learned how to live in this old place with her quirks and eccentricities. The beauty of this older home has been brought out with sweat, prayers, and immense determination!

I never knew if I saved it, or if the house saved me. -Susan Branch

We never meant or set out to buy a home as big as ours is. I just wanted a Victorian house. My husband and I tried for a decade to buy one and we always lost out, failed, were too late, there was too much wrong, etc. All along I kept praying and keeping my faith up.



When this house came along it was such a steal. I really didn’t think it would work out, but God had other, wonderful plans for us. It did work out and we were now the proud owners of a “white elephant” of a house. (The picture below shows the third floor and how bad it had gotten over 100 years. The lady who sold the house to us had started to drywall the rooms up here when we bought it.)

Ok let me tell you straight, when we moved to our old Victorian house we were blissfully naive about the upkeep and pretty well informed about the work of restoring her. (This is the best way to go into home buying!) We had a lot of faith things would work out because we certainly didn’t have a lot of money!

This post is going to deal with the Breakfast Room, Dining Room and our Kitchen Pantry. More posts will follow with lots more renovation adventures!

We knew it needed a new roof within the next couple of years, but everything else seemed more or less ok. It wasn’t until we moved in that we realized things we would need to do on the inside, and our plumbing started to fail. We waited on repairs as much as possible, doing temporary fixes and doing things ourselves. (Thank God for Flex-Seal!) The first two winters were miserable. Our laundry pipes froze constantly (they were in a North pantry on the outside wall), and we struggled to manage heating our cavernous spaces. The pipes leaked, we had weird “ghost” leaks that we couldn’t figure out where water was coming from, it was nuts!

The third floor stairs with the vent pipe from the downstairs bath sticking out of the wall and going back in again. Who knows why, yeesh.

So a lot of the first major things we did (after recovering from re-plumbing almost the whole house) were to manage heat in the winter. The biggest was putting the wall back up between the dining room and breakfast room so we could shut off 800 square feet downstairs in the winter. (We also shut off the entire third floor and one bedroom on the second floor.)

This picture shows the dining room looking in from the library. I don’t know who this guy is, but he is standing in front of the breakfast room with the crazy wallpaper. The wall has been removed in between the rooms. You can’t see the curved windows for the 80s curtains, but they are there!


This picture shows the dining room and the library straight ahead. Behind us is the breakfast room. These are the two rooms that we needed to shut off in the winter so we could afford the heating bills.61_view_toward_room_east_of_entry_JPG63_to_kitchen_jpg

This is looking into the kitchen door from the breakfast room. This door had been taken off when we bought the house. I found it in the carriage house, warped and wet. I re-hung it lickety-split!

The lady we bought the house from was one of our college professors. She used the dining room as a large office. She took up all the carpet, but left us all her area rugs- Yay! She had bookshelves constructed to fill in where the wall had been and used the breakfast room for storage. The bookshelves did not have backs so you could see through them to the other room.




Our first winter here we used these as bookshelves on the dining room side and as a food pantry on the breakfast room side.

Strangely enough there was a big piece of trim missing on the west wall of the dining room. It was such an obvious hole in the wall and I longed for a fix for it. The trim fit right over the baseboard and was a decorative top piece. I was sad because with all the plumbing and heating disasters I figure we would never get another piece. Then, a God miracle happened.


One day I was cleaning out the old playhouse at the back of our yard. It was filled with hay and garbage. I was filling trashcans up when my rake and broom uncovered this white piece of trim nailed down along the floor by the wall as a makeshift baseboard.IMG_3887

I looked at it and looked at it. Then I screamed and ran to get a crowbar to pry it up. Sure enough it was the missing piece of trim to the dining room wall!!! It even had writing on it telling where it went! (The writing might have been done originally but most likely it was done when the house was semi-gutted to get new electricity in the 60s.) Why it was in the playhouse I will never know, but I’m so glad God led me to it!


I put it right back where it went after showing it to everyone I possibly could! I remember that night there was a thunderstorm and we slept on the third floor. It was magnificent up there with the storm! I never painted this trim piece to match, it’s a different color white. I wanted to remember it just as I found it and be reminded of God’s love for me and my family.

The constant freezing of the water pipes in the North walls of our laundry pantry in the kitchen led us to finally making the breakfast room into our butler’s pantry (when we got the wall back up). Our original butler’s pantry had been swallowed up when our kitchen rooms were knocked together to make one big room, but we desperately needed a good place for laundry and pets and such. I really didn’t want to change any rooms, but this was born of necessity. We had a huge dining room and half the kitchen for table and chairs, so another place to eat wasn’t as practical as thawed water pipes to a full-size washer and dryer. This also gave us our food pantry back (it had housed the tiny stacking washer dryer set) which was lovely.



The back shelves were missing for years. I was going to have a carpenter fit them, but in the meantime I cleaned out the basement and found them down there!













This was pre-kitchen renovation when it got painted and a new-floor and better organized and de-cluttered! I’ll put those pics in with the post on our kitchen. It was so glorious to have a real food pantry!


We also found these plate rails in the basement clean-out and they turned out to have been in the breakfast room so we put them right back! Our great friend J came over and ran the new plumbing for our washer and dryer with my hubby in the breakfast room (new butelr’s pantry). The crazy wallpaper was painted over by the previous owner.


Then my DH bought me a full-sized washer and dryer! I had been doing 8-10 loads of laundry in our tiny set and it took a whole day to get through it all. These super-sized ladies get it done in 3 loads or less in about 2 1/2 hours! Gosh we are so lucky!


After that we began to tackle the problem of the missing wall. We were FREEZING in this place in the winter and heat is expensive ya’ll! Our plan was to keep as many rooms shut off as possible when it was cold and we had to have our laundry area heated so on we went. We tore out the bookshelves. (Dear reader you know how much I love books so you know I must have been REALLY desperate to do this!)


Then my Uncle A came over and framed the wall back in, which was a good thing because apparently it had been sagging! And we went shopping for a door!



Just finding a 5-panel door in a sea of cast-offs!IMG_5383


Then, on to the trim, drywall, and plaster… (Our dining room has a half-tower of lovely curved-glass windows.)


There was a curve to be plastered! Yikes! This took me DAYS!IMG_6519

Trying to match paint…


But in the end, not too bad. The left side drives me crazy, but I covered it with a picture later LOL.


Ahhhh, I can feel my heating bills dropping! Also it just goes to show how much harder it is to put something back than it was to take it out in the first place!


We had our Hey-wood Wakefield dining set in here until my Mom downsized and gave us her dining room furniture which are a much better in scale with the tall ceilings downstairs.IMG_6534


Our Hey-wake set got moved to the room right above the dining room which happens to be my studio! It has the same lovely curved wall and curved-glass windows! The ceilings up here are shorter so the set looks much better!


Alrighty, this post is huge; I better stop! Next will be our adventure re-decking the front porch! I’m going to be covering our kitchen and bath remodels as well as our outside restoration! I can’t wait!

With House-luck to you from Kansas Street,








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