An Old Photo of the Ravenna House


When we first bought the Ravenna House, I tried to learn everything I could about the history of the property.  I’m a sucker for old house history, and I wanted to know who had lived here before us, how they had lived, and what they had done to the house.  The neighbors shared stories – some funny, some pretty sad – about the previous owner, John and long-time resident Josefa.  But when it came to tracking down a historic photo of the property, I turned to the Puget Sounds Regional Archive, our local source for historic records.

I was pretty excited to find out that the archives had multiple photos of the Ravenna House. I purchased the oldest photo, this one from 1937:

The Grit and Polish - Ravenna House Historic 1937 Photo

The Ravenna House was a quaint little tudor in 1937, right?!  I want to ball up that charm and sprinkle it back in 2014.  Because I’m really not fond of the changes that have been made to the exterior of the house since this photo was taken.  Previous owners added vinyl siding (an actual decrease in the house’s value, according to our appraiser) covered the classic stucco detail at the top of the gable with Victorian-inspired vinyl fish scales, replaced the front windows with large vinyl sliders, and generally ignored maintenance on the house for a few decades…or 8 to be more precise.

This is what the house looked like in 2013, two weeks before we closed on the property (this is the picture our realtor took with my iPhone and we included with our offer):

The Ravenna House Front 11-7-13

Look how little Wilder was.  Ahhhhhh so sweet!

But let’s be honest.  The house has lost soooooo much of it’s original charm.  If I had my druthers, we’d return the exterior to its 1937 glory, but sadly we do not have that kind of budget for this house.  The vinyl siding was installed a few years back and it’s in good shape, so we can’t justify the expense of ripping it off and residing with cedar.  We did pony up and replace the windows with vinyl and reconfigured the front windows back to the side-by-side configuration that you see in the 1937 photo.  That, at least, was a real win for the exterior.   But that’s all we’re planning to do.

I’m not going to show you an “after” photo today, because deep down I’m hoping that we’ll change our minds (or win the lottery…!) and replace the front door with a wood version, reside in cedar siding, and free the gable’s hidden stucco.  Plus it’s really, really cold in Seattle right now, and it’s just too cozy in my house to even think about going outside to take a photo.

So tell me, what do you think?  Do you prefer the 1937 version as much as I do…or is the vinyl siding not as bad as I think?



p.s. A few house exteriors I like better than mine.  Much much MUCH better!

p.p.s. I didn’t know this was possible – one of my favorite ice cream shops teamed up with one of my favorite blogs.  And it sounds pretty delicious!

p.p.p.s. I dig this country house!


If At First You Don’t Succeed…A Shower Floor Tale


Here’s what our new basement bathroom looked like about a month ago.  It only took the gestational period of a baby (42 weeks in Wilder’s case) to get it looking like this, so we are proud of our DIY efforts.

The Grit and Polish - bathroom remodel completion

And here’s what the room looked like a couple of weeks later:

The Grit and Polish - bathroom remodel progress

Confused?  You should be!  Saws and masks don’t belong in a room that has just been renovated!  But so this tale goes.  And here’s the part where I pull out that well-used saying…if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

And that’s just what we did.

See we didn’t slope the shower floor properly, so water ran away from the drain instead of into it.  But only in one small-ish area.  When we took that first, long-awaited shower it was with about one inch of standing water on the floor.

Frustrating to say the least.

Turns out there’s nothing much to be done about an improperly-draining shower floor besides re-doing it.  So we ripped it out and try, tried again.  Let’s walk through the process from start to finish.

Step 1: Rip up the tiles on the offending area.  Oh my this was a lot harder to do then it sounds…I just couldn’t help but think, why didn’t we do this right the first time?!

The Grit and Polish - Bathroom floor tile fix for improper slopping

Ugly, isn’t it?!

Step 2: Re-slope the sub-floor with mortar

The Grit and Polish - bathroom shower floor redo

Step 3: Re-tile the shower floor.

The Grit and Polish - bathroom shower floor re-tile

Step 4: Rip up more area and re-tile to make double, triple, quadruple sure that we had the right slope.

When we started laying the new tile, we noticed that the new section was quite a bit higher than the old.  I was pretty worried we’d end up with a still-improperty-draining shower floor situation and we’d have to rip it out again.  And that sounded worse and more embarrassing than sweeping the driveway in nothing but your underwear and cowboy boots (see photo below), so Garrett pulled up more tiles and then laid new ones all the way to the wall.  The picture below illustrates the expanded area.  The original fix area is the bold box, and the arrows show the extent of our expansion.  Please forgive the rudimentary drawing – my online photo editing skills are a bit suspect…

The Grit and Polish - expanded shower redo area The Grit and Polish - hexagon tile shower floor re-doStep 5: Grout the new tiles, wash, and seal.

The Grit and Polish - shower floor hexagon tiles groutThe Grit and Polish - tile shower surround and floor

And we’re done.  Again.  It’s not perfect, but it drains properly, so I’m a happy DIY-er.

Moral of the story?  Do it right the first time.  And more specifically, when you’re tiling a shower floor, make sure you get a good slope to your subfloor.  Spending the extra time on this step could save you a whole lot of time and money and frustration down the road.  Especially frustration.  There’s nothing worse then doing the same job twice.  Right?  Except maybe having a mama who let’s you go outside with only a diaper and cowboy boots on (the picture is coming…).  Or being a blogger who finishes a bathroom renovation and doesn’t do a reveal post for two plus months (a situation I totally plan on rectifying soon).  

Have you guys ever messed up a DIY this bad?  Probably not.  But if you have, please share…make me feel better about myself!


p.s.  Thank the heavens, Catherine has a new old house to renovate!  Best. News. Ever!

p.p.s. Every year we spend Labor Day at the Ellensburg Rodeo.  It’s a tradition I have every intention of passing down to the next generation.  And I’m pretty sure Wilder is on board.  Well at least he’s excited about his first pair of cowboy boots…an interest that does not extend to clothes, apparently.

Wilder in cowboy boots 8-27-14

p.p.p.s. I just started reading this book.  Sadly it’s my first summer read and we’re at the unofficial end of summer.  I’m already addicted to the TV series (so much so I bought Starz for a year…don’t tell Garrett).


A Room for the Family


Garrett and I have never had a family room.  Is that crazy?  I mean we’ve always had a living room, but never a family room.  A space to roughhouse in and play with kiddos and dogs and not worry about stains on the couch or bonked beans on the hardwoods.  We’ve never even had a carpeted room before.  And to tell you the truth, we’ve never even wanted a carpeted room before.  Hardwoods and light-colored couches worked just fine for us.

Enter baby Wilder.

That 9-month-old crawls everywhere!  He wants to chew on the coffee table and run into every sharp angle and fall on every hard surface he can find.  He wants buckets of toys and stacks of board books in the middle of the living room.  He pushes his car around the table and into the dining chair legs.  He carries around fistfuls of saliva-soaked bread and apples slices and hides them in the sofa.


So, time for a family room.

We carved out about 350sf in the basement of the Ravenna House between the stairs and the bathroom for exactly that purpose.  We’ve put in a large window for natural daylight and legal egress, framed the walls, rebuilt the stairs, and polished the concrete wall (more on that later). Papa’s ran the wiring and put in the can lights and outlets.  The sheetrock is hung and mudded (we hired that out so it would be done before we moved in).  And last week put in the built-ins.  

Here’s what it’s looking like now.  I’ll move counterclockwise from the stairs, so you can get a feel for the whole space.  Excuse the mess!




Can we talk about the built-ins for a second?  They have been collecting dust in the basement of the Bryant house ever since I found on them Craigslist back in October.  We weren’t in the market for custom maple built-ins but they were in amazing condition and I thought, why not?  They would make great storage and really help classy up the basement a bit.  Best part was they were listed for $200.  Crazy, right?!

Garrett and a friend took the truck over to fetch them that very same afternoon.  And what’s better then getting custom maple built-ins for $200?  Custom maple built-ins for $160!  Yup, Garrett bargained the price.  Can you say #craigslistscore?!  I mean who sells dovetailed drawers and solid wood cabinets for $160?  Apparently someone who wants them gone!

We were happy to oblige.

Basement 15 4-4-14


Basement 2 4-4-14

Nice, right?  I mean we need to find the missing doors (they’re rumored to be in Papa’s car – there’s the culprit there with the measuring tape) and the honey finish looks a little too twenty-first-century for our 88 year-old house, but nothing a screwdriver and a can of Benjamin Moore’s Simply White paint can’t fix.  I’m really happy with the scale of them (about 10′ in length and 6.5′ tall).  And the solid construction.  They actually proved to be more solid then I even anticipated.  About 500lbs solid.   It took three of us to get them down the stairs at the Ravenna House.

So, the family room is coming together.  I’m working on the finishes right now.  Carpet, paint, trim…you know, the good stuff!  I’m getting really excited about how we’re going to use this space when it’s finished.  I’m imagining lots of playing and cuddling and hanging out down there.  Bubba’s going to love rolling around on the carpet.  Wilder’s going to love rolling around with him and having a spot to rock out to his toddler tunes (aka do his bouncy dance).  I am going to love having a spot besides the living room to use the elyptical machine.  And Garrett, well he’s probably going to love just being done with this room…someday.


p.s. dreaming hard core about this local Seattle project.  Yes, I know it’s already pending.  And yes, it’s way out of our price range.  But a girl can dream!

p.p.s.  I didn’t even know a house could look like this…and it’s in Portland!  Add this to the list of my favorite renovations EVER!  Article originally in the New York Times.

p.p.p.s. Our kitchen sink stopped draining last week.  We thought the side-sewer was clogged and were bracing ourselves for a lot of digging and a large bill.  But, lucky for us it was much simpler then that.  Turns out someone (ahem) forgot to remove the test cap after the inspection.  Garrett pried it out and we were on our way.  Unfortunately not before cutting a giant hole in our new drywall.  Oops.

Plumbing Issue 3
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If you Let Your Husband Pick Out the Kitchen Faucet…


Last month I told Garrett that he could pick out the kitchen faucet for the Ravenna House.  Why?  I’m not really sure. But I think it was a combination of frustration (he didn’t like anything I picked out) and a little bit of ego (I said something like, “fine! let’s see if you can do any better”).

Well turns out, if you let your husband pick out the kitchen faucet, this is what you get:

Kitchen Faucet 1 3-6-14

Yup, that’s a commercial faucet in my kitchen.  It’s chrome.  It’s huge.  And here’s the crazy part.  I actually like it.  I might even go so far as to say I really like it. Surprised?  Me too.  Here’s why. The faucet is super functional. You can fill tall pots with the spout and reach the entire sink with the high-pressure sprayer. I like the way the height of the faucet highlights the window molding and the gray handle complements the marble backsplash.   I don’t even mind that it’s chrome despite the fact that everything else in the kitchen in brushed nickel or stainless steel.

Kitchen Faucet and Sink 3 3-6-14

Oh and there’s the apron front sink.  As you may remember, I had designed the sink-base cabinet around the Ikea Domsjo (here), only to find out that it was out of stock.  A last minute Amazon search found us a replacement (here). The new sink is shorter and not as wide as the Domsjo, which meant Hubby had to do some tweaking to the cabinet.  He added filler strips along the bottom and sides of the notch out and then we painted them.  You can hardly tell.  Hubby does good work!

While we’re talking kitchen details, let’s talk cabinet hardware.  This was one of those game time decisions for me.  I ordered a couple of different styles from Home Depot and then tried them out last weekend after the cabinet faces and drawers were installed.  My favorite were by Martha Stewart – boxy pulls for the drawers and classic matchbox catches for the cabinets (we used the same catches in chrome at the Bryant House).

Kitchen Cabinet Hardware 2 3-6-14

Kitchen Cabinet Hardware 3 3-6-14

Kitchen Cabinet Hardware 4 3-6-14

I like the mix of the modern pulls with the classic catches.  The pulls help tone down the overall traditional-ness of the kitchen.  See I’m one of those people that doesn’t like anything to feel too perfect.  I like spaces to feel lived-in and have a touch of the unexpected.   I’m the kind of person that likes to mix black and brown and leave unfolded throws on the back of the couch.  So for me, the juxtapose between the traditional matchbox catches and the modern pulls (and the commercial faucet for that matter) creates balance.   One could even say, a little conflict is a good thing.  At least in kitchen design.

I’m really pleased with how the kitchen is turning out.  So much so, in fact, that I’m sensing another round of “If you let your Husband Pick…” coming soon!

What do you think?  I’d love to hear from you!


p.s. did you notice that we grouted?  I am LOVING the backsplash…femininity be damned.

p.p.s. This is a great blog post about what some people feed their baby’s (hint: pretty much anything).

p.p.p.s. Happy happy happy birthday Sissy!  And though we may be a good number of years away from 40, this article has some great tips on aging!

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