25 Feb

I found the fireplace. I owe all of you a lot of thanks for dissuading me from getting the gel fireplace because you were right, I’m going to be much happier with this in the long run. Although it is still not exactly what I wanted I think I made a great compromise. To begin with, it is not a vented model. I wish it was, but they were simply out of the budget. If I could have, I would have, but I can’t. As an unvented fireplace it burns cleanly enough to not require a flue pipe. Which does have some positives. One of which is that all of the heat stays inside the house rather than going out the chimney. I read some mixed reviews online about them but it seems as though, as with anything, if used sensibly will be quite safe and very efficient. Nevertheless, I will be installing an extra C02 detector just to be safe and drilling a vent in the storm window to crack open while it is being used. The instruction manual claims that the fireplace puts out about 26,000 BTUS and can heat about 1,200 square feet (almost double the size of the whole house).It is also equipped with a blower to help circulate the air.

This model is a few years old, but buying it used saved me over $800 dollars and it is exactly the same as what I saw in the showroom. So far I have spent $400 for the unit itself and $75 for the materials I needed to construct the new mantle.

So this is where we are at currently. I built the new mantle from 3/4 inch Oak Veneer Plywood which I had cut to size at The Home Depot. I then screwed it together on a a simple 2×4 frame which I will show you another time. All the screws and the seams and the plywood look will be covered with decorative moldings and stained later. Here’s the general concept:


I’ll also spray paint the brass with the Rustoleum High Heat Spray paint to make them black. And yes, that is a mock-up of the TV on top (because there is nowhere else for it). However, I do have plan for that that I spied online today at Remodelaholic.



Cool right?

My father will be coming up on Sunday to install the gas line. Because that is not for amateur hour.

This Happened.

24 Feb


I got the fireplace today. Its used off Craigslist and was waaay cheaper than a new one. Don’t worry, the brass is not staying. I’m posting from my phone since the internet was tied up in the old mantle. Standby for more updates.

House Tour: Joe & Brad

17 Feb


As soon as I saw Joe & Brad’s new place I knew I needed to ask them to do a house tour. Their two bedroom apartment is nestled on a quiet one way street in one of Rochester’s arts & cultural districts. Recently renovated by the landlords, the gleaming hardwoods, fresh paint and updated kitchen would make anyone feel comfortable; but it was Joe & Brad’s special touch that makes this place feel like home.

As soon as you enter the foyer, original hardware like these push button switches communicate the attention to detail given to this home.

Here in the Living Room, Joe created an oversized art piece made from paint samples cut into tiny squares and pasted on to small canvases. Large widows and ample seating provide a quiet place to relax, watch movies or hang with friends.

More of Joe’s own artwork hangs on an opposite wall above a couch. 

Adjacent to the Living Room, a well proportioned Dinning Room is ready for a casual Sunday Dinner

but…. most importantly contains the bar. Unique and charming do little to describe the creative re-use of an antique icebox found unused in family member’s garage.

Anther freebie… this Empire Revival sideboard, was found on the curb. Although it was missing the middle doors, fresh paint as well as the addition of some wooden crates gave this piece a new lease on life.


A small Butler’s Pantry affords Brad, a self professed foodie, plenty of storage for all of his cooking tools.


Apparently, this is also where the couple’s cat, Gilly is stored.


At the rear of the apartment a large kitchen dwarfs the size of my own and can easily accommodate eating in,


…a small garden

…and  storage for baking pans made from old pallets.

The bedroom is decorated in shades of gray and houses more homemade artwork which keeps the relaxed, vintage-modern remix theme going.


Living here for a little less than a year both Brad and Joe have done a remarkable job infusing their home with the essence of their style, and without spending a ton of money. If you’re interested in  seeing more of Joe’s work you can follow him on his Tumblr:

Gel Fireplace

11 Feb

The last time I posted about this issue. People mentioned the lack of a real flame being a major drawback to the electric fireplace models. I have to say I agree, as a result I kept searching Craigslist for a deal on a gas insert. While I do think that I will eventually find something, I wanted to gather some opinions on another option. While perusing the vast and boundless interwebs I happened to come across these gel fireplace inserts. They provide both a real flame in addition to a reasonable amount of heat.


Real Flame Ashley Gel Fireplace

Impressive right?

You can buy the entire operation for about $500.00 and they have a plethora of options to choose from in terms of mantle styles and finishes. But, If you know me well enough, by now, you’d know that I’d think that was too easy and still too expensive. You’d also know that the options they have are not Craftsman enough for me. So wait until you see this:



These are intended to be used in existing fireplaces and this one retails for around $180.00. With one of these I could modify my existing mantle to include a fire box with a top, sides and bottom made from a noncombustible material such as patio pavers or tile. I’d also add a tile hearth and screen for added protection and to complete a seamless illusion.

The flame burns from a small can of odorless alcohol gel fuel which is supposed to be environmentally friendly and clean burning. The cans are a little pricy, running about three dollars each. They claim to last about 3 hours each and you can use between one and two at a time. Each can of fuel burns at nearly 3,000 BTUs. So, if you burned two for three hours you’d gain 6,000 BTUs (comparable to many small space heaters) an hour for three hours setting you back about six dollars. looking at the reviews on Amazon it was very evident that people love these things. Many have five star reviews drawn from hundreds of commenters. The product is billed as being incredibly safe in terms of both fire safety and emissions.

If six dollars is too much, there are all kinds of videos on YouTube which outline simple ways to make your own gel at home inexpensively from isopropyl alcohol, vinegar and chalk dust or even hand sanitizer.

So now I leave my question to you. Should I persue the gas insert for the ease and convenience of instant on demand heat and flame? Or, do I look further into a gel fuel option for time to time ambiance and marginal heat benefits on chilly evenings or with company?

It Snowed.

9 Feb



Rochester got quite a bit of snow overnight from a winter storm. The roads were a little dicey last night, but overall the storm wasn’t much more than business as usual for us. However, it did make the neighborhood look like a winter wonderland.


After I dug myself out, I took advantage of the day to install some weather-stripping around the front door. This is probably one of those projects that should have been done a long time ago. It only took about twenty minutes to install and I think it will go a long way to help keep out the drafts. You can see the gap near the lockset is pretty wide here.



After I was all done the seal was much better.


WPA Posters

5 Feb

I ordered a reproduction Works Progress Administration Poster for the hallway near the bathroom.

Hall Picture

The space has been blank since I moved the Charles Allo print from there to the dinning room.

I’m a big fan of the WPA Posters because I think they are a great combination of vintage and modern. Created on the verge of modernity, yet right in the midst of Great Depression they provide a unique juxtaposition of the old and the new.  During this time the US Government employed out-of-work  artists to create these posters in order to publicize community activities, national parks as well as health and educational programs. The Library of Congress has a phenomenal online collection, worth your time if you have it to browse. The best part- they are copyright free since they were created for the American people!

This one, for the New York Municipal Airports is one that I’ve had my eye on for a while and I finally found a good price on a large reprint from Café Press, an on demand printing company. It arrived yesterday, and I ‘m very anxious to hang it. Looking at the item’s record in  the Library of Congress there is no artist listed to associate it with, only that it was printed around 1937.


City of New York municipal airports No. 1 Floyd Bennett Field - No. 2 North Beach.


Here are some other cool ones that I  noticed browsing the LOC catalog.

Amateur contest for children Final eliminations, Sept. 24, 1936.

Amateur contest for children Final eliminations, Sept. 24, 1936. Estelle Levine

Better housing The solution to infant mortality in the slums /

Better housing The solution to infant mortality in the slums. Benj Sheer

Father & son banquet

Father & Son Banquet. Albert M Bender

44th annual exhibition by artists of Chicago and vicinity--The Art Institute of Chicago

44th annual exhibition by artists of Chicago and vicinity–The Art Institute of Chicago. John Buczak.

 Who's who in the zoo Illustrated natural history prepared by the WPA Federal Writers Project : On sale at all book stores, zoos, and museums.

Who’s who in the zoo Illustrated natural history prepared by the WPA Federal Writers Project


Plains farms need trees Trees prevent wind erosion, save moisture ... protect crops, contribute to human comfort and happiness /

Plains Farms Need Trees. John Dusek.

Happy hunting! Also, in doing this research I came across this book which looks interesting which I will be adding to my wish list. But, if you’re interested as well it looks like a great resource to add to your library.

Fireplace Updates

4 Feb

In order to do my due diligence, I stopped by the fireplace store in my neighborhood and they gave me a lot of great information about gas inserts. I learned that the whole operation is really quite simple and could be done without hiring help. I also learned that they are expensive. For the basic model it was going to cost me around $1,400, add to that about $700 for a grill for the front, plus a $200.00 vent. All said and done, we are talking about two grand. While that’s certainly not extremely expensive, there are a lot of other places where two thousand dollars is more desperately needed at the bungalow (like the driveway).

They also had the same electric fireplace insert that was used in  the guest house at A Country Farmhouse on display; and I must say, it really doesn’t look too bad in action.

Next stop… Craigslist!

There is hope. I did find quite a few used options that were less than $500.00 however, there was an awful lot of ’90s bass on them. Granted, I think I could paint away any brass with the high heat spray paint,(like has been done here) but I was less than enthused about the style of the listings. But, I think with any Craigslist endeavor time and persistence will pay off. So for right now I’ll be putting the fireplace on the back burner until I find an appropriate option.

I am however inquiring about this one. Its not perfect but… It might just work.


Its honestly one of the better Craigslist options I have seen and if I can negotiate a little on the price it might be able to be jazzed up a little with nice mantle and some tile.

Speaking of tile…

Since this puppy is being built into the house I think its important to try to be as authentic as possible and I would like to use a little bit of Arts & Crafts style Art Tile like these from Duquella Tile & Clayworks to put into the surround. I must admit even though I like the Arts & Crafts style, I am not very much of an earth tones kinda guy. I like these because they subject matter seems very Arts & Crafts but the colors are not so dreary.



pine conesflower

As I research, I am also learning about something I believe is called Field Tile. It is usually green and has an uneven, but natural looking glaze. You can see an example of it here. I really the color and the subway tilesque used pattern in this application. That firebox also looks very similar to the one I enquired about on Craigslist.

field tile

Hopefully I hear back from the seller with some favorable news. In the meantime just keep you fingers crossed!

Updated Blogroll & False Fireplaces

29 Jan

I read a lot of blogs. In fact, so many blogs that I recently cancelled cable and don’t seem to care. Of all of these blogs only my real favorites make it to the Blogroll here. I’ve done a little housekeeping over there. Some bloggers have moved on to greener pastures (Stucco Bungalow, If your reading this, I’m dying to see whatever happened to your bathroom!) so they have been removed. To fill their places I’ve added some newer favorites.

Speaking of other Blogs…

I’ve mentioned before the false fireplace in the living room  that I made to replace the original that was once in  there. I like it, its fine… but I wish it was real.


The last couple weeks have been bitter cold and I’ve been using a space heater to take the chill out of the corners of the house. As you know, I read a lot of blogs and I’ve noticed a lot of people going to the next step with their fake fireplaces. They have done such a great job with it, managing to walk on the better side of a thin line of really cool and tacky.

The most recent of these has been over at A Country Farmhouse. Let’s just start of by saying everything Trina and her husband do is very tasteful and this fireplace is no exception.  

When you look closer you can see she used an electic insert


Which she then covered with an antique screen to complete the total illusion, quite effectively in my opinion. If you have a chance, check out the entire renovation of her guest house.

Another impressive fake fireplace that I spied was at Just So Lovely. In her basement another electric insert was used to create a similar fireplace.

Her blog has a very descriptive and helpful step by step tutorial that anyone follow.

It’s true that you could go purchase one of these pre-built at the hardware store, but I think the look is much more convincing when you have the ability to build your mantle to the correct proportion and with a style that is appropriate to your home.

One more blog that has done something similar to this, although without the electric insert is The Hunted Interior. Kristen made this really great example in a fashion much like the others but used the area that would be a firebox to fill with log slices.

 How cool is that?

So if I do venture down the electric inset path its going to create the where do I put my TV drama that always accompanies a room with a fireplace. Let me propose a possible solution. If I nix the side chair and suitcase end table I can create a built-in bookcase to the side of the fireplace. Then I can mount the TV inside with a swing arm mount like this one. This will allow me push the tv in and out of the shelf when in and out of use. In the attic are the original doors to the mantle bookcase that used to be here and I can use those to add to the front of the bookcase, hiding the entire operation.

Something like this without the bench to the right:

Or maybe… I just save my pennies and get a gas inset put in and be done with this nonsense.

Blog Fight

27 Jan

My blog and I are in  the middle of  giant fight right now. My apologies for the recent blank post.

I’m trying to improve the Before & After page and other consistency issues but the images will not align correctly in the WordPress editor or in Windows Live Writer especially when I try to make them go side by side. I’ve tried to circumvent the issue by inserting images into tables and then tried a gallery plug in for the Before & After page and that’s when things got ugly.

I must say blogging IS NOT EASY. Over the past year and some change that I have been doing this I’ve learned a lot. One of the biggest things I’ve come to understand is the incredible about of time, dedication and sheer skill it takes to do this well. So kudos to all you guys out there knocking out of the park on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis. To be a good home blogger you have to be a good writer and speller (which I am not), you have to be a good photographer (another thing I am not) and you have to be a halfway decent web designer with graphic design skills to boot (that’s another  BIG no)yet, these are only the backend skills. On top of all of this you have to be handy around the house and full of creativity to do something interesting enough for people to care to read about. Oh, and don’t forget straight-up fearless in a “Hello word, come into my house and judge it!” kind of way.

I’m left wondering what other people are using to create their blog posts, and if they have had this image alignment issue I’m referencing before and how they’ve rectified it, any tips would be very helpful to me.

What To Hang On Your Walls: Inspiration Post

23 Jan

There is no reason to have blank walls. There is also no reason purchase art from Target, Marshalls or TJ Max. But I’ll be honest… there is nothing as intimidating as a big, blank wall. As I’ve settled into my house over the past year I’ve had some trouble with this myself, but I’m finally getting to a spot where I have been able to find just the right thing for just the right spaces and I paid very little for all of them. So here are some ideas I’ve used here, maybe they’ll be of use to you.


I found a set of Ironstone dishes like these at a thrift store. They are stained and crazed but that’s why I lov’em. I think I paid about twelve dollars for them.

Vintage Family Photos:

Check out this collection of vintage family photos. The frames are just as interesting to look at. When you find yours you can take the originals to Target and had them enlarged, color corrected and reprinted for less than five dollars each.

Authentic Vintage Signs:

I dug an”Open To The Public” sign out of corner at a consignment shop. I paid about ten bucks for it.  Another, “Fire House Connection” sign came from an estate sale, if I remember correctly it cost around two dollars and hangs in my living room. I think the real key here is finding AUTHENTIC peices. The ones that say things like “live, laugh, love” do not count. I really love the size and style of the one used here.


What a fun pop of color on an otherwise blank wall.

Or what about nautical charts for a more subdued look?


An old clock provides a functional wall filler here.

Book and Calendar Illustrations:

Find a coffee table book of images or artists you like and cut it up. There are also all kinds of really great calendars you can find to use as well.

An Antique Mirror Grouping:

Keep your eyes open for interesting mirrors. Large ones, small ones and ones of various sizes to create an interesting combination.

Antique Group Shots:

I’ll admit there is something creepy about a large group of dead strangers on your wall but I really like the way they create an interesting collection on the wall.

Vintage Ads:

Find something unique and interesting. There are 1,000s to choose from online but steer clear of Chat Noir and Parapluie Revel it’s not unique at all.

Shadow Boxes:

Do you have something really special to you? An antique pocket watch? A ribbon from the State Fair? Find a deep frame and hot glue or wire it in.I really like this idea of the labeled champagne corks.

A Special Card:

Ever get a handwritten card or note that said just the right thing? Frame it and remind yourself you are special everyday.Or… If nobody thinks you are special, you can always hang some of these vintage ones which you can find 1,000s of at any antique store.

Your Trendy Instagram Photos:

Print them out and frame them,nothing ever looks bad with a washed out grainy filter. The most difficult part is finding the right size frame. Keep an eye out at the dollar store.

Thrift Store Art:

This take some patience but you can really come out with some gems. Paint by numbers, sketches and other cast offs can become very interesting when properly curated and hung.

Leaf Presses:

I really like the look of these leaf presses. I did something like this at my backdoor. I gathered all the leaves myself and then simply framed them. This is almost free to do.


Lastly, you could always make your own. Look at this… I bet you could make it from cardboard.

or string…

Italy Love String Art- Oliveto Lucano

When you’re doing all of this hanging. Don’t forget to the size and composition of your peices. Even a simple print  like this Keith Haring example can look quite dramatic on a large scale, or divided into several peices like this map below it.

Whatever you do, make sure it is personal. Have a story about where it came from, what it means to you, how you made it or what it says about you. Don’t ever hang anything with out a mat and don’t take it too seriosuly; well… maybe a little seriously.