Archive for March, 2010

Welcome, Shlomo

Monday, March 29th, 2010

A photo of a Northern Mockingbird, and one of Shlomo's mishpocheh (brethren)

Last week activity at mad maison slowed a little because I was on a business trip to Plano, Texas. While I could write an entire post (perhaps even a few) about the differences between the Greater Dallas area and the Greater San Francisco Bay Area (and why I’m grateful to live in the latter), today’s post is about the new neighbor who greeted me upon my return to mad maison. Our new neighbor didn’t announce himself until after night fell. Once it was dark, he sang his song all night long. Yes, loyal mad maison readers, Shlomo (which is Hebrew for peaceful) is a bird (and yes, irony was present when we named him). After a little bit of research it was clear that Shlomo is a Northern Mockingbird. It seems that when male mockingbirds are without a mate, they sing throughout the night to attract one. While Shlomo hasn’t prevented the residents of mad maison (human or feline) from falling asleep, it’s our hope that he finds a date soon. Of course, Shlomo is one of those small reminders of the differences between New York and the Bay Area. For all of the articles I read about the Peregrine Falcons in Manhattan, I didn’t see many non-pigeon birds in New York City. And of course, avian sightings were even less likely before April or May. But here in temperate San Francisco, with plenty of hills and trees for friends of the forest to make themselves home, Shlomo is welcome.

mad archaelogy

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Today, mad completed our first archaeology project. My brother came over today to help us with some dining room mad rehab. Before we got started, he told us a legend that had been passed down from my grandfather to my father, and from my father to him. Supposedly, when my family first moved into this house there were doors separating the two rooms that comprise the aforementioned “double parlor.” For reasons that weren’t altogether clear (perhaps they considered it an ancient, dangerous doorway into another dimension), my grandfather covered up these doors, sealing them for all eternity (or so he thought).


The legendary secret door.

We decided to see if there was any truth to the legend. The risks were great–if we removed the wood, we could damage it, making it hard to reinstall it. In addition, of course, there was the prospect of double work–removing something simply to have to put it back together again. The three of us decided the potential reward would be worth the risks. With pry bars and mallets, mike and my brother started lightly banged away at the piece that likely covered up the door. After a short time, it was clear that there was something behind the wood they were removing. About ten minutes later (after removing all three pieces of wood) two functional, wood pocket doors were revealed. These doors will come in handy when I need to keep working in one room and Mike wants to relax in the other. Also, mad appreciates revealing yet another original detail in the house. However, we’re also tempted to stop all other rehab work on our home and search for the treasures that we’re now convinced are hidden elsewhere in the house.


Our new pocket doors, compliments of Mike and my brother. You can check out the whole reveal process by clicking on the photo and going to our flickr site.

another little thing. . .

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Even after we rehab every room, mad maison is only 1,080 square feet (excluding the garage). While many people would consider that a small space, it’s actually a bit larger than our apartment back in Queens–and it’s plenty of space for mad. Like many older spaces, however, it is a little lacking in closet space. Our house only has two closets (one in each bedroom), which is half the number of closets we had in Queens. It’s important, therefore, that we take full advantage of each of them.  The closet in our bedroom is actually more spacious than we expected, with an alcove that fits a little dresser. Of course, despite its size, there is no light in the closet. While our longer term plan is to have an electrician wire the closet with light, that’s not in the cards for phase one of mad maison rehab. I was determined to come up with an interim improvement that didn’t involve me holding a flashlight with my teeth as I try to find my clothes. Do you ever get one of those catalogs of various home improvement gadgets wondering if you’d ever use them? Well, your good friends at mad maison can attest that at least one of those gadgets comes in handy–the motion sensor battery-powered light. It was easy to install, and by using a couple of them I actually have decent visibility of every nook and cranny of the closet. Here at mad maison we call that a win.

closet light

A little home improvement that helps a lot.

dining room inspiration

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Now that mad has removed all the wallpaper from the dining room, we can start of the next steps of prepping the walls for painting. Our dining room has some unique features: it has pressed tin wainscoting covering the first five feet of wall, it has a “plate shelf” that sits right above the wainscoting, and it has a coved ceiling. It is also connected to our living room by a wide arch (often referred to as a “double parlor”), so we want to make sure the two rooms work well together. We will therefore carry the beautiful earth-tone wall color we painted in the living room into the dining room.

And again, apartment therapy and my mom come to our aide. My mom, after flipping through a recent issue of Living etc I brought back from the UK, suggested we paint the lower half of the walls the same color as our living room. I was initially wary about painting the pressed tin until I saw a tour of a charming SF apartment over at apartment therapy where the inhabitants painted their wainscoting a darker color. As you can see, the look is compelling and we’re tempted to follow suit. I’ll be doing some test painting after work this week while mike completes some of the other prep steps like washing the walls and completing the plaster repair. Regardless, mad always gets excited when we get to the this point of a project–I think we’re both shocked we got to this point so quickly for this particular room. Whether or not this pace remains is all up to the pressed tin, primer, paint, and guile.

dining room inspiration

My mom proven correct, again. Photo from

A little site business for those of you interested: you’ll notice this photo links to our new flickr account. We’ll be migrating our photos over there, as well as uploading a few additional photos that haven’t been previously blogged.

mad catches a break

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Last summer, mad started the journey of rehabilitating our home room by room. We started in the living room, thinking it would take a week and that would be that. Starting with that fateful room, mad soon learned that this was not going to be a fast process. The wallpaper in this house seems to have been partially infused into the wall, all to address cracks and damage to the plaster walls. We realized each room would take weeks or months to strip, repair, prime, and paint. Our dedication to rehabbing this house “right” was recently reinforced when I read a well-written blog by a couple in Chicago who are rehabbing their Chi-town bungalow. When presented with one wall in their bedroom that is like every single wall in our house, they decided to leave the wallpaper and paint over it. It’s become clear to me that our path might be honorable, but it’s also lonely. We started building our arsenal of wallpaper removal products, from scrapers, to DIF gel, to power steamers. It was with this sense of patience and determination that we decided to head to the next room for repair, the dining room. Our dining room is the largest room in the house and serves as both dining room and my home office. It has great bones, and we were thrilled that due to the presence of tin wainscoting that lines the lower five feet of wall (more on that in a future post), we wouldn’t have as much wallpaper to remove.

That thrill was initially squelched when we first moved in, removed some wallpaper in the room “dry” (without any removal gel or steam), and discovered three layers of wallpaper on the walls. Last week, however, we decided to jump in and attack a very small stretch of the dining room with all of our newly found know-how and our arsenal of supplies. Lo and behold, that section of wall was free of all three layers in under an hour. Before we knew it, we removed a third of the wallpaper in less than three hours. Yesterday, mad was committed to getting the dining room to a wallpaper-free state by the end of the day. And I’m happy to report at exactly 11:59 pm last night we stood and looked at the hospital green walls now visible where wallpaper used to be. In addition, unlike every other room in the house, the dining room has three cracks total that will require the infamous Big Wally’s plaster magic. That means we won’t have to skim (and therefore sand) the room. That means we can do minor repairs, and then immediately prime and paint. We might even have a finished dining room before spring is fully upon us. We are eternally grateful to this room and this house for finally giving us a break.

A view of the three layers of wallpaper found in the dining room.

Who would have thought mad would find an expanse of hospital green walls in their own house so beautiful.