Name: Rose Simmons
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Tell us about this home building or renovation project: My partner and I bought our 1927 house 2 years ago, and I knew it had everything I needed, but was in sad shape. Luckily almost everything was just a matter of cosmetic updating. The minute I got the keys the first thing I did was tear out the old brownish carpet, only to find another layer of green underneath. But under the second layer of padding was (as I suspected) a beautiful hardwood floor, perfectly preserved. We then moved on to the bathroom…
... which had a claw foot tub hidden under a plaster enclosure, which we were able free from confinement. And finally we just finished the biggest project yet, the kitchen, with new lower cabinets, a re-used countertop, re-finished uppers and I even re-finished some of the hardware myself.
Our goal from the beginning was to re-store and re-use what ever we could that existed originally, because they sure don't make anything like they used to. I even acquired a vintage Anderson 1947 range made by Anderthat's amazing! It's designed to cook with no fuel, and it works! By using existing materials and enhancing the original characteristics of the house we were able to keep our budget way down. I think the bathroom ended up around $600, and included new tile, paint, and a new faucet for the tub. The kitchen close to $2,000, including new lower cabinets, tile, having the counter top cut to size, re-working the plumbing, and having someone strip and re-paint the upper cabinet doors.
My inspiration was the house itself, and pictures I could find of what a house looked like in late 20's early 30's. We also used bamboo to make a high fence enclosing our front yard, and found outdoor furniture on Craigslist and in the trash that was easy to re-paint. My partner Dave is currently working on an old Avion (like an Airstream) trailer to use as his art studio in the back yard.
What specific green materials, techniques, or processes went into this project?
We were able to re-use much of what we already had by taking it apart and re-finishing. I took apart the cabinet doors and had a local business strip all the layers of old paint off, so they could be re-painted. I re-used all of the hinges and hardware by grinding, sanding, and polishing to give them a shiny chrome look. In the bathroom we kept our beautiful claw foot tub, and sink and just cleaned them. We also used the original towel bars and toilet paper holder. Outside we used bamboo for its sustainability, and it was also the least expensive and best looking option.
What green building material or product were you most pleased about?
The bamboo fence looks really awesome. It's private yet sort of transparent when looking out. Also the cabinet doors I think look great for being original, and function perfectly now. I love my vintage gas range, and would recommend it to anyone over a newly made one. And the claw foot tub is amazing as well. I love to soak, and the cast iron it's made out of retains the heat so well, unlike modern fiberglass versions.
What had you less than enthused?
I really wanted to re-use the original cabinet latches, but the brass finish just did not fit with some of the new chrome fixtures, so I tried to sand those down too like I did the hinges, but they just did not turn out very well. So I did have to purchase some reproduction pieces. The clawfoot tub had to be the hardest piece to deal with. First, having to hammer out a very well constructed wall surrounding it made of chicken wire plywood and plaster, and then later trying to re-install it and not realizing the size pipe used back in the 20's is not the same size you can buy at the hardware store today. There was a lot of trial and error in getting the faucet and drain hooked back up properly.
Have any advice for readers looking to green build or renovate their home?
Sometimes what you have or can find used is better quality than something new. So many things can be re-painted, or sanded and re-finished. Re-Store is a great place to find things. And there are some great green materials out there that you might not know about. I had no idea you could make a bamboo fence until I cam across Calibamboo.com.