With the cold, damp, grey days that we have been having, I’ve been working to keep the house warm and cozy. Fresh flowers, and lots of bright red, really help.
One of my helpers showed up at work on this wonderful old bicycle today. She bought it at a garage sale a few years ago for $12. As soon as I saw it, I had to run outside, pop some flowers in the basket, and take a few photos. The sun was already brighter than ideal, but I like these pictures anyway. They capture part of the mood of the bed and breakfast. Obviously the main appeal of staying at a B & B is spending time in a lovely home and feeling pampered. But, for many people, an important part of the experience is sitting back and letting life move at a slower pace. Thanks, Anne for riding this wonderful “vintage” bike to work.
Out with the old and in with the new …
Over the past week and a half, we have been redecorating the Darjeeling Room. (All of our rooms are named after teas, though I’ll confess, the tea-theme does not carry over to the decor.) We changed the wall color from a pure white – to a very pale blue-green shade called Morning Breeze. (The shadows in the before picture don’t quite allow one to fully appreciate the change.) The bathroom is now white and a blue-green called Holly Glen which replaces the dark Admiralty Blue that used to be on the upper wall areas. We are going for a more contemporary and airy look than we had with the previous decor and are very happy with how the room is turning out. (I’ll be updating the photos on our website soon.)
Sometimes, I reach a point at which I just can’t make any more decisions. I picked the two pictures below for the walls, and … then got stuck. I choose these because I like them and I thought that they fit with the overall look for which we are aiming. Then I realized that they both related to the Darjeeling Room because it looks out at the front garden and also on the crab apple tree on the East side of the house.
I’ll wait to see how these look framed and hung; and then, I trust, inspiration shall walk in to help me take it from there. (Oh, I’m so excited about the new look!)
Twelve years ago, when we bought our house to turn it into a bed and breakfast, the yard was a mess … almost entirely weeds and dirt. We had originally opened the B&B in a house across the street from Manhattan City Park four years earlier. So when we moved, I wanted our new yard to feel like a miniature park. I got out my graph paper, measured the yard, and came up with a landscape design. Central to the design was a fountain surrounded by a stone walkway. My husband Bill and our friend Jason went to a local quarry and brought back three pick-up truck loads of limestone to build the path. Once it was done, we planted several flats of creeping thyme between the stones. I was so excited. I thought that the walkway looked like it could have been in a magazine.
As Robert Burns wrote, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. The creeping thyme could not hold back weeds. Dandelions, crabgrass, and a whole host of undesirables grew right up through the thyme. In weeding, we always wound up pulling up the ground cover, separating the weeds, then replanting what of the thyme we could – and then planting new thyme the next season. I finally got tired of that cycle and gave up on the interplantings all together. That left us with a stone pathway with just dirt between the rocks. Moreover, the rocks hadn’t weathered well, and many were broken and uneven. The walkway looked antique, as though it could have been constructed when the house was built in 1902; but it was not as attractive as I wished it were and I was always stubbing my toes on it.
It took a couple of years for me to work up the courage to make the call – the stone walkway had to go! This past week, my helper Benjamin dug up the limestone, used it to fortify the border around our central flower bed and to build stone walls on the sides of the property. He then laid down cedar bark mulch which, at least for now, is lovely and so soft to walk on. It gives me happy feet!
Our house was built in 1902. Its architectural style is Queen Anne transitional and it has many lovely features that one doesn’t often see in modern homes. One of the comments that we frequently hear around the B & B is “Boy with an old house like this, you sure must have a lot of work to do.” We do have quite a list of work that we’ve done, or had done, to the house in the years that we have owned it. But the list isn’t long just because the house is old. A number of the repairs are ones that a anything except a brand new house could potentially require. (See my post “Basements and Butterflies.”) All houses require maintenance and ours happens to be a big house with interesting architectural details which we would like to preserve. So in a way, I guess, that does come back around to the age of the house.
Our contractor, Russ, employs a euphemism which we dread hearing … “deferred maintenance.” That is when a home owner doesn’t stay on top of repairs and something that could have been a smaller job turns into a bigger and hence more expensive one. So when my husband recently discovered water coming through the porch roof between two of the columns, I got on the phone to Russ. Russ sent brother Tim over who told me that they were going to have to prop up the porch roof and pull several columns so that they could remove and replace the damaged boards. I didn’t like the image that conjured up. I had visions of broken columns and layers of rotten wood. The wrap around porch with its columns and its varnished wood ceiling is one of our favorite features of our house and I didn’t want anything bad happening to it. Russ and Tim and the guys have always done good work for us, though, so I did my best to put my worries aside.
We chose a sunny day when there weren’t any guests around the house as the best time to have the work done. Once the guys to started, they had the roof secured and the columns pulled out in almost no time. And violà the house was still standing. Thanks to Bill’s observant eyes, and to our trusty contractor, we caught the damage before it had gone very far; and everything has been fixed. They were able to do all of the repairs yesterday and today painting is all that needs to be done.
The culprit in all of this – improper gutter installation. The gutters didn’t have the appropriate backing where they wrapped around some of the porch’s corners. They looked fine from the front. We just had no idea what was behind them. So you can guess what is next on our list. But if you own an old home like ours, you’ve got to love it and that means giving it some t.l.c.