Snow in the Living Room? (Phase II Exterior - Front Porch)

One of the other things that did not occur to us when we first looked at our house (pre-purchase) was when you enter our house you walk directly into our living room. I should say that yes, we did realize that, but not what it would entail in regards to the elements.

When you have this scenario and you don’t have a front porch and it then snows/sleets/rains, the elements come right in! It’s kind of disconcerting when you are sitting watching TV and in comes someone along with snow flurries! So our next wish list item was to someday put on a front porch.

Although our house was built in the 1920s, I wasn’t able to find any records of our house that showed pictures of what our house looked like originally – but we thought it MUST have had a porch. It just looked too plain without one. And I’m sure previous owners would have been equally irritated by snow blowing in by not having a porch.

In the Fall of ’07, we thought it was time to add the front porch. Thus began the confusing (for us) process of trying to figure out what our porch should look like. We didn’t have to go through the process of looking for a contractor; because we loved what Woodridge Homes did with the siding etc. - it was a no-brainer.

In early Spring ’08 we met with the “Toms” (as we call them) and got down to business. They suggested we figure out what type of design we’d like and then they’d have an architect draw it up and finalize the plans.

So Larry and I went through all the pictures we collected from magazines and photos we took and tried to sketch what we wanted. For someone who used to paint, my attempt at sketching failed miserably – utterly awful – couldn’t even tell it was a piece of architecture let alone a porch! Then Larry showed me his sketch (see above) and I use the term sketch loosely because the darn thing looked like an architect’s drawing! In a fact an architect who saw the sketch did ask Larry if he was looking for a position as a CAD drafter – so that was pretty amusing. Larry is incredibly talented with his sculptures (I’ll post a picture later), so drawing our porch really shouldn’t have been a surprise – but I was just speechless. Way to go Larry!

Once we received approval from the City we were good to go. Larry and I are pretty detailed when it comes to what we like, so thank goodness the Toms were detailed as well.

The porch was completed by July 4th and we (Larry) finished painting it before Summer’s end.

We did have one glitch – Larry was staining the beadboard ceiling that was already primed. And for some reason when he went to put the sealant on the sealant started to “eat” away at the stain. It was awful, because Larry worked so hard on it and had it at the perfect color before the stain disaster hit. So he stripped it and started over, without adding a sealant.

The finishing touches seem to make the porch – rocking chairs, brass mailbox, canned lights above, an electrical outlet…and a DOORBELL! So no more worries about us not hearing people any more.

So we are looking forward (Ok, maybe not looking forward) to the Winter when we can “test” out whether the elements venture into the living room – I’m thinking we are in the clear!

Phase 1 Exterior - Siding & Windows

When we moved into our farmhouse in June 2003, it’s amazing what little details you forget to check for/don’t notice. For example:

A door bell. It’s one of those things that…well…just wasn’t on my mental checklist to look for when we saw the house.

  • Insulation. More on that later.
  • Bathroom sink inserted into wall because it was too big for the base-cabinet. I suppose this was ‘creative’ carpentry!
  • Master bedroom closet with a wall that was on an angle, but not in a good way. Hard to explain.
  • It did however have good bones – our inspector was pretty impressed with house despite the quirks and slanted floors (who doesn’t like a slanted floor now and then?!?)
So we settled in and began to make it home. Larry and I painted…and painted…and painted…and I discovered something about myself (and Larry can attest to this)…I’m either color-blind or seriously lack the capacity to differentiate warm and cool colors. Our poor living room has been painted 4 times since we moved in because it just didn’t look right or what I thought it should look like based on that stupid paint chip!

Jack (our cat that apparently is permanently “cloaked” because she never appears to anyone but a “select” group of individuals) for the first time in her life got a job – mouser. And I might add…she’s effective. Although, when she shows us her catch I try very hard not to recoil in fear and instead try to say what a good girl she is for doing her job – I swear she glows with pride.

During our first winter it was very apparent that…well…our original windows and our house in general wasn’t holding up too well to the elements. I’m not kidding when I tell you that we could see our breath and when we touched the walls they were freezing! And personally I’m a get cozy and vedge kind of gal, so it was not a pleasant winter. But Larry was a trooper and offered some sage advice: layer!

I’m not sure when we started talking about it, but at some point we were saying what things we’d do to the house “when we won the lottery” or saved up the cash…whichever came first. Obviously, saving up came first and we decided to reside the house, which I will admit I was foaming at the mouth to do, because I couldn’t seem to get past the tin-can wrapped exterior.

So we found this fabulous local company, Woodridge Homes Inc. ( and they re-sided our house. These guys are phenomenal and if anyone lives locally to us, we highly recommend them – really detailed, honest and fair.

What we discovered when we took off the aluminum siding is that under the original clapboard siding was no insulation! Yes, nothing, nada etc. So we had them blow insulation too.

Although we were originally looking at Hardie Plank, the siding we picked was Nailite, which is a composite siding. We were a little hesitant at first, but you really can’t tell it’s not cedar siding even if you touch it. Also, the trick is to use cedar trim and have your contractor hide the J channels behind that – it really looks nice.

We also replaced all the windows, but kept the farmhouse style which we liked so much.

So that’s it…voila! Phase 1 completed!


And So It Began On Mechanic Street...

Well I finally managed to get my act together and created this Blog - so welcome!

I thought this would be a great way to keep family and friends near and far up-to-date on what Larry and I have been up to in Illinois – so ‘hello’ to all back in Connecticut, Montana, Nova Scotia, Malta and parts in-between. I/we hope that you will enjoy our Blog – in fact, we hope you visit often and post comments!

What prompted me to start this Blog? Well, those that know me well know that I LOVE pretty much anything that has to do with interior design and houses (I should have stock in HGTV!). So when we moved from our loft in Evanston to Crystal Lake, we had our work cut out for us. We were so lucky with the loft because when we moved in, we literally just put up pictures where there were holes; it was that turnkey.

That was however, not the case with our place in Crystal Lake. Larry and I love older homes because of the character, but our 1920s farmhouse located in our city’s downtown, somehow had a lot of the character snuffed out of it over the years. Actually, I’m embarrassed to admit that when we bought the house I think both of us thought the other really wanted it and said “let’s do it!” I think we were both shocked that the price was less than our loft and the taxes were so much lower that well, we went for it.

When we moved in I suddenly felt like “gee, it’s cute on the inside, relatively speaking, but the outside, sure does look like it was wrapped in aluminum” – which in fact, it was. As such, we had/have our work cut out for us. But truly, we’re so happy here, you’d pretty much have to drag us out of here to move us.

So, we’d like to fill you in on what we’ve done so far to the house and our life in general – hopefully we have enough adventures going on to have updates. So here goes…

One final note – the posting title references Mechanic Street, which was the original name of our street when the land was a pickle factory years ago. I like it because it harkens back to yesteryear and well, that was our goal with the house…bringing it back with some character. I’m hoping were doing that.