Bathed in Brick

With the 2 upstairs bathrooms finished and the old basement bathroom still intact, we had one more bathroom to contend with.  The main floor bathroom is small and serves as a powder room but actually was built to be another full bath.

We wanted to save what we could which included the original tile floors and the pocket door as well as a large picture window.  Everything else had been gutted from the room so we were able to get creative when putting it back together.

I chose to carry the brick from the kitchen into this room to add flare and make it feel as though it was an existing part of the old house.  To get started, we installed the shower base and then installed concrete board to not only the shower walls but the rest of the room.   Instead of drywall, we bricked the entire room floor to ceiling and also bricked inside the shower.

To make sure it was moisture proof, we put two coats of masonry sealer on the bricks and grout. This darkened the brick color slightly and added a wet-look sheen to the walls.  The install was like putting on tile and will function just like tile would when the shower actually gets used by guests.


Because of the shape of the bathroom and the placement of the window, we were limited on other items that could go in this bathroom so we kept it simple with a small pedestal sink.  Since the window is above the sink, we mounted a medicine cabinet above the toilet for a needed mirror and storage.

Even with the small space, I love how much of an impact this room makes because of the brick. It is truly a one-of -a-kind space and makes a huge statement for guests when they come over.




“Slow” Season or “Serious” Season?

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, many sellers ask if they should wait to list their home instead of putting it on the market now.  For those looking to sell their home now, there’s good news:

According to a Huffington post article and Redfin, now is the BEST time to listing your home!

“Anytime between December and May is an ideal time to list your home — and February is the hands-down the best month. The company’s analysis of nationwide listings from 2014 showed that 74 percent of homes listed in February sold within 90 days, and 13 percent of them sold for more than the list price. (Compare that to September, when 61 percent of homes sold within 90 days and October, when just five percent sold above list price).

In short, “shoppers in January and February are motivated,” says Christin Camacho, a Redfin spokesperson. “They’re looking in winter because they need to move, not because they’re just looking for fun.” And if people are going to brave the cold to househunt during winter, then they’re going to make their effort worthwhile.”

Masterminding the Master Bathroom

The master bathroom started as a completely gutted space.  The floors were torn up in spots and unfortunately not salvageable.    The tiled walls had also been torn out as well as the shower, vanity and toilet.

With such an unfinished space, I was able to truly customize it to be exactly what I wanted.   I knew I wanted a large walk-in shower, an antique classic look, and plenty of storage.  Unfortunately, this also meant it had to get worse before it got better…  The place had to be completely demoed before these things could be put back in.  What made it even harder was that we did not have any lighting/electrical upstairs at that time!


“Dark Demo Work”

After the place was cleaned up and electrical was run, we were were really able to get a layout set.  (With plenty of help/supervision from the dogs, of course)

We were able to use space that had originally been a 2nd hall closet to add more space to the bathroom in order to create the walk-in shower.  That freed the space that used to house the bathtub to become the location for the dual vanity.  We moved the location of the toilet to the old linen closet and made space for a new linen closet next to the new vanity.


Future master shower


Future “Water Closet”


Shot of Crusoe supervising the vanity and linen closet design


Vanity plumbing

When choosing finishes, I knew I wanted the space to feel like it could have been there since 1935 even though it was a modern layout.  I chose to use herringbone marble for the floors and 12×12 tile for the shower walls to create timelessness.  To make the shower feel more modern, we added dual overhead showerheads and 2 built-in storage shelves.

We then installed an old dresser as a vanity with the plumbing and sinks retrofitted to maximize drawer usage.  Instead of being underneath the sink, the water and drain lines are actually located in the wall behind the vanity.  Access panels were installed in the master closet on the adjoining wall.  A piece of glass was put on the top of the vanity to keep water from damaging the piece.  We used clawfoot tub faucets for the sink faucets and mounted them from the wall.


We built a new linen closet in the corner for extra storage and used old cabinet doors that remained from the kitchen demo to carry out the historic look.

We love that the end product looks both modern and antique while being completely unique.  It is truly a one-of-a-kind master bathroom that utilizes every inch of space offered in an old house.

Swtichback Kitchen Design

With the beam in place and the brick up as a backsplash, it was time for the fun task of designing the kitchen here at Switchback Manor!


Kitchen when we bought the house

We wanted the design to be in keeping with the old feel of the home while still having the modern amenities of a new kitchen.


We first installed the flooring to ensure that the flooring would be under all of our cabinetry in case we ever changed the layout in the future.  After that, it came time to pick out cabinets and countertops.


We chose ivory cabinets to carry the color of the fireplace built-ins and trim from the rest of the house and make the cabinets feel more original than brand new.  One thing I made sure to do was to have the cabinets extend to the ceiling to ensure both authenticity and as much storage as possible.  I am not a fan of soffits and since they are a relatively recent kitchen design, they did not belong in the house.


For our layout, we worked with our existing, opened galley kitchen by adding a large centrally located island separating it from the open family room.  We then also added a dry bar/office nook behind the family room to create a cohesive feel and add yet more storage.

For countertops, we chose soapstone.  This would not only have been a stone that was used in the early 1900’s, but it is a great countertop option for multiple reasons.  It is non-porous so unlike granite, it does not require yearly sealing.  Instead you can oil the surface to bring out the natural veining.  The more you oil it the darker it gets.  The surface can also stand up to high heat.


For appliances, we chose stainless to help modernize the space.  I love how the old works so well with the new in this space.


FINALLY! A Bathroom for My Clawfoot!


One of the more disappointing things about buying a gutted old home has been that the bathrooms have very few original features remaining.  The tubs and wall tiling, toilets and sinks were all gone, and the only thing remaining of the old bathrooms were some beat up plaster walls and the flooring.  The flooring in one of the bathrooms was not salvageable but the upstairs bathroom for the 2 guest bedrooms had great green tiles we really wanted to save.  There was a large hole from the old tub that was an irregular size but we came up with a great idea in order to keep the old tile.


We built a pedestal and got a cast off 100 year old clawfoot tub to put on top!

This not only covers the area of tile we could not fix but better showcases the antique tub.  Our first step was drywalling the space with mold resistance drywall and then installed concrete board on the pedestal and the walls surrounding it.

It was then time to get to work subway tiling the area.  I chose a white beveled subway tile to add a modern take on the old style.


I then added a stripe of black to tie in the vanity we planned to add and a glass color to tie in the original sea glass floor color.

After it set, the tile was grouted with unsanded gray grout and we set to work painting the bathroom.  After paint, the tub as well as the vanity and toilet could be installed.  For the vanity, we used a remnant of our kitchen counter top which is soapstone.  It will can be oiled and will darken with time.


This became our first fully functional bathroom at Switchback Manor!





Shiplap Style: A Little Fixerupper Flare at Switchback Manor

After finishing wallpaper removal and plaster work, there were still some areas of the house that had plaster that was in really bad shape.  The worst offender was the upstairs hallway.  Not only was chipped paint falling off the walls but the plaster itself was crumbling.  This was due mostly to a moisture (and later mold) problem that happened as the home sat vacant before we bought it.  With the humidity too high, the plaster was basically ruined.  With a new HVAC system and duct work in place, we no longer had to worry about mold growing but we still had to deal with the walls.

My husband and I are huge fans of Chip and Joanna Gaines from “The Fixerupper”  and knew we had the perfect opportunity to put Joanna’s shiplap look into our home.  We bought 1 x 10 pine boards from Menards and started at the bottom of each wall using a nail gun for a rough finish.  We used cabinet shims as spacers to create a small space between each board .  The process was actually pretty quick and we liked it so much that we did one of the more damaged walls in our master bedroom as well!


Not only did it take care of our plaster issues, but it added a visual interest to an otherwise boring hallway.  We then added crown molding to dress the shiplap up and painted everything a glossy antique white that matches the trim throughout the house.  Rather than rolling the paint on for a perfect finish, we used a brush to keep the character of the wood.  The result is casual and homey without feeling too “country.”


We love the effect so much that we plan to do a shiplap wall in the basement when we finish that as well!

Flooring: Eco Friendly and Attractive

It is looking much more finished here at Switchback manor with the flooring down!

When we bought the house, most of the house was demo’d down to the sub floor.  There were a few areas that had original hardwood remaining but they torn up in parts and were also level with other added subflooring in other parts.  It would have been more work to try to save them and would have resulted in a choppy feel to the house.


Formal living room


dining area


Family room




master bedroom


4th bedroom turned closet


2nd bedroom

Instead, we chose an option that would not have been around in the 1930’s but has a distressed finish to blend with our “new old home.”  We picked bamboo which is actually harder than oak when chemically pressed and will be great for a home with pets.  It is also eco friendly as bamboo grows quite fast.


The installation process was the same as for tongue and groove wood flooring:  after laying out a thin underlayment for sound, the planks were fitted to each other and nailed using a special nail gun designed for flooring.


Family room Hall



The boys hard at work


Living/Dining room

12928353_10101537186932061_6763451862726308201_n (1)

Crusoe and Piper supervising



Upstairs Hall


Entrywall (formerly slate tile)


Master Bedroom


Bedroom 3

The best part? Because of the distressed, darkened finish, if it does get scratched will can simply use a stain pen to darken the area and it will blend with the existing distressed marks!

Overall, I am so happy with the dark flooring next to the pale gray walls.  Next step..trim!