Monday, March 21, 2016

Living Room in Chantilly Lace [& Benjamin Moore's Low-VOC Natura Paint Review]

Up until now our only local paint stores have been Sherwin Williams, Lowes, and Home Depot.

As far as our living room goes...they haven't served us well.

(you can review our two previous attempts at painting our living room here and here).

However, with the most perfect timing, a Benjamin Moore store was beamed down from heaven and opened up in our area within the past few weeks, so naturally we pounced!

We had decided to ditch gray paint altogether in our living room and go for white. I'd narrowed it down to choosing between BM's Simply White and Chantilly Lace before going to the store. As fate would have it, Chantilly Lace happened to be on the walls in the store and it was also painted in a south-facing room, same as our living room - woot!

It looked like a true and warm white on the walls, with no yellow or blue undertones; at the very faintest it might be said it has a super-small tinge of grey undertones.

Having seen it on the store walls...and adding in the low risk of white turning out wrong...and at a point where we're both too tired of painting the room to care anymore...I went straight ahead with buying a gallon in the Eggshell finish and lugged it home.

Of special note, I chose Benjamin Moore's Natura line of paint. It's a super-low VOC paint in which there are almost no VOCs in both the base paint and the colorant; a hard combo to find from most paint brands. It is a water-based acrylic paint that hardly compromises air quality and is friendly for asthma sufferers. In fact they claim there is almost no smell from the Natura paints.

Any kind of chemical smells easily overpower me in a way that I can't be in the same room - most household cleaners fall under this, and so do paints. Our last paint in the living room, Valspar, had been so bad that I could smell the paint for days afterwards not only in the entire main level but also the second floor and I was keeping our windows cracked open in 30-degree weather. Not ideal.

Therefore I was very keen to try the Natura line and see how well their claims stacked up.

This was also our first time trying Benjamin Moore, so both of us were curious to compare the quality of it to Sherwin Williams and Valspar.

We were not disappointed.

The paint was a nice consistency - it wasn't watery, didn't splatter, and gave great coverage.

Even better was that it really didn't give much of an odor. As in, I seriously had to go right up to the can to get even the faintest whiff of "paint" smell. I'm sold.

It also dries in approx 30 minutes - pretty fast, and a big help for knocking out painting a room in one afternoon.

Oh and look - we have a uniform color happening behind the radiator now!

We're planning to do crown moulding, thus why we didn't bother finishing off the tops of the walls. As for when we'll actually get to install the moulding...

We're really digging the white with the wood trim and are both happy with our final color choice. I can't wait to get our living room furniture moved in from the dining room and start decorating!

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Shared On: beforeandafterwednesday

Friday, March 18, 2016

American Foursquare Home Style & History 101

You've probably noticed on past posts and our 'about' page that we refer to our home as an American Foursquare (jump over here for a quick tour). Being the nerd that I am and the fact many of you wonderful peeps are old-house lovers as well, I thought it'd be fun to go a bit into what makes a Foursquare different from other turn-of-the-century homes and the neat attributes that one finds in such a style home.

our beloved Foursquare after Snowmageddon 2016
Exterior Characteristics

- 2 & 1/2 stories
- boxy 4-corner home with simple lines
- commonly had a least one roof dormer, if not four (one on each plane of the roof)
- pyramidal or hipped roof (sometimes also very steep)
- front porch (half or full-width) with 2-4 supporting columns

The Foursquare was One of the Most Widely Built Homes

Introduced in America around 1890 and lasting into the 1930's, the foursquare was popular across the nation with the growing middle class for its simple and economical design. During this time period people were turning away from the seemingly ostentatious Victorian and similar design homes that required more expensive craftsmanship and labor. Interest was beginning to shift toward owning a well-built, modest, and functional home that would serve its purpose of raising their families and engaging and entertaining with society.

via whyberwyn
A Foursquare home's simple boxy shape was straightforward for builders, less materials were wasted, and it was designed to make use of every square foot of the home making it an affordable and dependable choice. Its size also allowed it the ability to fit into town and city lots, which suited it well for the times as more people were moving to the cities and suburbs for manufacturing jobs.

Variations in Style

The simplicity of the foursquare lent to it having great variations in style; it's an infinitely changeable house that can be made to fit the owner's tastes. On the exterior one can find a Foursquare in any number of finishes: brick, stucco, wood clapboard siding or shingles. The porches were often Craftsman or Greek/Classical inspired and were a focal point of the home.

via Houzz
via Flickr
The cost of raw materials were very affordable with the advent of the industrial age and trains transporting goods from coast to coast. It was a standard for most homes of the time to have wood floors and plaster walls, materials that would be a lot less affordable in today's time for your average working middle class.

The main floor was usually kept more traditional with french or pocket doors, and the staircase was often more than just a function but a piece of architectural craftsmanship.
via youtube Amanda Emerson
via showing247
Woodworking of door and window mouldings were given special attention and detail, as well as tall wood baseboards and sometimes intricate floor pattern inlays. Light fixtures, radiators, staircases, even details such as doorknobs and hinges, were often either Craftsman inspired or as ornate as the Victorians in their neighborhood.


The American Foursquare got its name not solely from its shape, but also for its total of 4 rooms on each level. In the beginning years of the Foursquare's popularity the floor plans consisted of four separate main level rooms: a formal entry and stairs, kitchen, living room, and dining room. Upstairs were typically 3-4 bedrooms and a bath. All rooms were simple 4-corner squares and would sometimes have built-in wardrobes and bookcases.

via Sears Roebuck Co.
Starting around 1905 and on, the floor plans began incorporating an "open floorplan" option by incorporating the stairway into a large living room that would usually span the width of the front of the home, with the kitchen and dining rooms in the back of the home.

via antiquehomestyle
Lots of natural light and good cross ventilation were priorities to keeping one's health at the turn of the century, so large exterior windows and interior transom windows were often incorporated.

Foursquares Are Awesome

I know I appreciate the attention to detail and craftsmanship in our own Foursquare, and I love how functional the spaces are (architects, take note - wasted space is annoying to today's consumers too!). We're grateful to have our home, and having learned its history a bit makes me even more fired up to get our home back to its roots and bring its true beauty back!

Be sure to follow along!

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It's Happening! [Living Room Gets Painted...Again]

Last night we took the plunge.

The living room is now white (feel free to laugh at our past 2 attempts to paint this room here and here).

I love it. Karl loves it.

We're so ready to be done, lol.

We have one more coat to do and then we'll be able to FINALLY move our furniture into the living room and start using it for the first time since we moved nearly 5 months ago! Huzzah!

I may just break out into dance when it's done.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Officially Glue Free! [Dining Room Progress]

We've hit another milestone in our restoration of the dining room!

Remember those awful 4 layers of wallpaper we had to scrape away and send back to the abyss whence it came?

...and then being left with walls of wallpaper glue to wipe off? (learn the method we found worked)

Well, if this were a video game, we would have "house achievement unlocked" flashing on our screen, because at last our walls are glue-free! Let your eyes drink in how great that raw plaster looks (a far cry from how it used to look)!

We're gonna bask a few more moments in this feeling of accomplishment before acknowledging that we need to figure out how to repair horse-hair plaster.

The walls are in amazing shape for their age and especially after holding all that weight of the shelving all these years. However, there's a few different kind of repairs we're going to have to address (and research!):

First, and probably the easiest are the holes where the built-ins were held in by nails that we need to fill in.

...then there's a hairline crack on the left side we may have to re-adhere to the lath before it becomes worse...

...chunks next to the window and in the corners that need filled back in...

...and a few semi-big holes that we can see all the way back to the lath that we frog-taped over for the time being.

Seriously though, I think we're ready for the challenge. Not to mention, look how much has been accomplished in this room already!

Dining Room:
  • take out shelving and radiator enclosure
  • take out wood border around ceiling
  • strip all 4 layers of wallpaper
  • get glue off plaster
  • repair plaster 
  • sand and refinish floors
  • strip paint off baseboards
  • patch baseboards
  • take wires out of baseboards
  • re-stain corner baseboards to match rest of room
  • paint walls
  • install crown moulding

We'll be sure to share our findings on plaster repair as we tackle it!

Any fellow plaster people out there? Got advice? Comment away! :)

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