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Jessica’s Garden: Two Souls Sold for a Farmhouse

With the holidays coming quickly to an end, our life is slowly returning to normal. We had to take a three week hiatus from our farmhouse renovations due to my husband’s holiday work schedule. As the holidays come to a close, we are looking forward to having him home more and also getting back into routine with renovating our home. My husband is the Project Leader while I’m Design Coordinator and also in charge of throwing a wrench in the works by offering some new and elaborate design idea.

Exposing the Brick Chimney in our bedroom

We’ve spent most of the recent weeks renovating the hallways and our living room. As I may have mentioned in months passed, everything in our home was adorned in at least two layers of antique but also severely water-damaged wallpaper; including the ceilings. While my husband spent his first couple of months taking stock and beginning to tackle many of the oddities in our home, I resigned myself to scraping paper. It took many, many weeks and enlisting the help when I could from my mother and sister, before all the paper finally had been removed; none of which was salvageable.

Our Kitchen Before and After

We began a plan of attack—conquering one room at a time to maintain sanity. We were making slow but steady progress and had several rooms achieved. But every time you would enter the house, no matter the accomplished work, it always looked the same because the hallways were forever sporting their bare horse-hair plaster walls. It was beginning to bring us down that the home always seemed to look the same. So, for the sake of sanity, we decided to tackle the hallways next to tie all the finished pockets around the house together.

After the paper is scraped, the walls require many hours and days of preparation before a splash of paint can be applied. Our purpose is to rescue the home and bring it back to its original glory— replacing the plaster walls with drywall is not an option. Even though it’s more work in the long run, we have saved our beautiful plaster. They require sanding, patching, sanding, more patching, a coat of primer and two coats of paint before they can be called finished. And then there are the ceilings.

Our Bedroom Before, During and Directly After

In the hallways, we applied the same method. However, in the bedrooms, we encapsulated the ceilings to reduce the risk of crumbling and falling by installing drywall and crown moulding over the existing ceilings. We have all the original farmhouse trim that luckily is not buried in layers and layers of paint, but does now require four layers of fresh paint to encapsulate all the lead paint that is presumably present in the home. It is extremely rewarding to watch a room transform. And I am getting very skilled at painting trim with a steady hand.

The Hallways Before and During

We have also been taking on our hardwood floors that run through the whole house. We believe they were installed in the 1920s and obviously never tended to since. While they were in remarkably decent shape, we collectively decided to refinish them also while certain rooms were empty. I reminded my husband that it would be twenty more years before we decided to refinish them, if we didn’t just bite the bullet and do it now. I have chosen warm but light and historic colors for the house, ultra white and high gloss trim paint with coffee colored floors.

Signature on the Plaster dating to March 7, 1918

Each room, while different, is coordinating and welcoming. I’ve determined that of all the skills I have acquired in the past year, staining is my favorite. I love watching the thirsty wood soak up the rich color and reveal the gorgeous oak grain. After a thick coat of polyurethane, the floors shine and expose all their gorgeous imperfections. While we have a long way to go, the progress that we have made so far is palpable. At the end of the day, as I watch our dreams transform, not without blood, sweat and many tears (on my part), I also know we are doing our home the justice as it deserves.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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