The Tour (kind of) – Part 3

Last but not least, I have a few images of the basement.

It’s… interesting? We suspect that at some point, one of the occupants of the house decided it would be a great idea to convert the basement to an illegal apartment (which we’re assuming is why there was a “For Rent” sign in the window the first time we saw the house), so a few steps have been taken in that direction. But the choices made while taking those steps? Fairly bizarre.

The set up down there is warren-like — tons of small rooms, with varying degrees of finished-ness. The most finished rooms are at the front of the house; it becomes bare cement as you go toward the back.

The stairs are steep, and are tucked directly under the stairs that lead up to the second floor. They turn twice, so it’s doubtful that we’ll ever put any large furniture down here. When you get to the bottom of the stairs, you are facing this room:


I can only assume this is supposed to be the living room/kitchen for the phantom tenant. I’m sure a microwave instead of a stovetop and a lack of a fridge is fine (!). Maybe those were coming later?

Anyway. The ceiling’s low, but it’s not a bad room. It has a working wet bar, a nice east-facing window, and immediately to the left (and just out of frame), this horror of a bathroom:


(Can you hear the Psycho shower scene music? Because I totally can.)

Speaking of shower scenes, when we were originally looking at the listing, we assumed that this photo:


… was part of the same bathroom. Nope. More on that in a minute.

Let’s go back to the first room for a sec. (Just for fun, this is the listing image. Doesn’t it look different?)


This picture is taken, I think, from the doorway. Immediately to the right is a second doorway, leading into a room that’s seven or eight feet wide, and maybe nine feet deep. I can only assume this was supposed to be the bedroom:


Apologies for the blur — this was the only shot I took. I’m not sure if that thing on the left hand wall is a light or some kind of heating device, and the random cupboard in the corner is an interesting addition (the phantom tenant’s “closet,” perhaps?)

Since having an illegal tenant isn’t high on our priority list, I think eventually we might just take down the walls in this part of the basement (as long as they’re not load-bearing, of course), finish it properly, and turn it into Dave’s Man Cave of Hockey.

Speaking of finishing things properly, here’s a short list of all the stuff that isn’t, thanks to Jeff the Inspector. Just shake your head… it’s what we’ve been doing.

  1. All of the plumbing is improperly vented. So when you use the sinks, the toilet, or the shower, the basement fills with Eau de Sewer Gas. Yum.
  2. Those ceilings? Great if you’re 5’2″. Not great if you’re Dave. Or Tony. Or anyone over about 5’5″ (i.e., almost everyone we know).
  3. The lighting. It’s recessed. Kind of:basement-ha
    I think that covers the worst of it. At least cosmetically speaking.

Anyway. Back to the tour.

Walking out of the “apartment,” you look down a long hallway; on your left is a series of beautifully built, built-in storage cupboards. Someone who lived here in the 1950’s or so was either a carpenter, a cabinet maker, or just really good with his hands. This view is from the far end of the hallway (so you’re looking back at the stairs and the door on the left side of the picture is the door to the “apartment”).


The framed cut out area in the center (where all that stuff is piled up) allows in light from a window. One of the doors is broken, and I’m planning to repair it, although the to do list is long enough that it might say broken for a while. The left side of this hallway has a couple of openings. The one closest to the stairs leads to a room with no door, but more built-in cabinets (man, I wish these were on the second floor):


… and, a shower.


Yeah. I don’t get it either. This is also the room where there is a vanity/workbench, which you can see on the left, a hole in the wall (cleverly disguised by the random plywood panel), and it’s the site of one of the more egregious structural issues. Someone, at some point in the past, decided to cut a huge square out of a joist to allow a couple of pipes to pass through. This, it turns out, was a bad idea. So we will be shoring up that joist before we move in, because it supports the entire bay of the dining room above.

The next opening on the left of that hallway is the alcove for the boiler. He’s a sad, old man, that boiler, and we’ll likely have to put him out to pasture in the near future; we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we can get one last winter out of him. He needs to be cleaned and inspected by an expert, so that’s pretty high on our list once we move in.

At the end of the hall is a set of shelving (just in case all those built-ins weren’t enough storage):


Then there’s a quick jog around the corner to the Appliance Graveyard laundry area. At this point, we know they’re leaving one washer and dryer behind. I’m going out on a limb and guessing that it’s the old ones that are hooked up, and not the shiny new ones under the air conditioning units. (That’s Jeff again, btw.)


This is also the scene of a further (and more recent) structural travesty; someone decided that they didn’t like that pole that you can just see on the left of the photo. So they thought they’d just saw right through the bottom and pull it out. Well. They sawed through the bottom alright. Unfortunately, the thing that didn’t occur to the erstwhile handyman is that that post is holding up the kitchen wall. We’re pretty sure the sawing through of the post and the crack in the corner of the kitchen window are related. So we’ll be shoring that post up, post-haste. (ha ha)

And that’s about it. At least, that’s all the parts of the house where I managed to take photos.


The Tour (kind of) – Part 2

Ok! Onward and upward.

When you get to the top of the stairs, and look down, this is what you see:


As you can see, the walls are definitely plaster, and they have a few… we’ll go with “imperfections.” That’s the second glass block window, by the way.

So if you’re standing here, looking this direction, immediately to your right is the door to the guest room; to the right of that is the door to the room we’ll be using as a double office, behind you is the door to the bathroom, and to your left is the door to the master bedroom. (Well, we’re using it as the master bedroom for now.)

So. Guest room. It’s a little less than homey at the moment. This is mostly due to the fact that it has no heat source, a single electrical outlet that looks like it belongs in a garage, and it’s full of random boxes and furniture belonging to the current owners. Voila:


The plan is to tackle the wiring/heat issue first, and worry about that heinous floor later. (That is faux wood patchwork linoleum, by the way. Stunning, no?)

Now the office, and its random adjacent space:


This is the view from the doorway – it’s a nice large room, gets plenty of sunlight (the windows face east), and the door you can see at the back left leads to the random extra room. There’s a door to the closet back there, which is basically the wall behind the bed in this photo. You have to walk out the door you see, close it, and then open the closet door to get into it. Like I said before, the layout upstairs is a little odd.

We are currently referring to this room as the Smoker’s Room. It reeks. The guy doesn’t smoke indoors, but he goes through the random room and out this door:


… to the roof and smokes with the door open. Blech. We’re planning on painting everything except the floors with Kilz; we already priced the 5-gallon bucket at Home Depot, along with a paint sprayer ( I can’t wait to use it.). We’re going to be doing a lot of painting.

That’s Eva, realtor extraordinaire, and Dave. Dave appears enamored with the calendar, although I’m not entirely certain why.

The one thing I am kind of sad about is that we’re going to have to rip out the vintage linoleum that’s back there. Check this out:


It’s kind of charming with its faux tweed and flowers. But I’m sure it’s going to hold onto that smoke smell like nobody’s business, so it’s going to have to go.

Here’s the view looking into the random room from the roof:


The roof is a flat roof; there’s no decking or anything approaching a platform out there. When you walk out that door, you’re basically just standing on the roof of the mudroom. We talked about maybe putting a deck up there someday, but for now, we’ll probably just lock this door and not let anyone out there.

So. On to the bathroom:


Neither of the bathrooms have a fan, so there’s some moisture damage here and there in the plaster; I think since they both have an outside wall, it is going to make sense to put fans in. There’s not much in the way of storage, so that’s something we’re going to have to figure out. But it’s clean and functional, and the tile is pretty new.

And, last but not least: the master bedroom. This is the room at the front of the house with the pitched roof, so the walls inside are pitched, too:


The color’s not bad, and it has a nice, big, south-facing window.


There are two closets, although the one you see above is only about 4′ tall, so it won’t be that useful as a clothes closet. The other is taller, but not terribly deep. You can tell this is an old attic conversion based on the lack of closets, and the age of the floors.


I think we may end up putting a wardrobe or an armoire in here so our clothes are all in the same room. Poor Dave has had to go downstairs to get dressed for over a year, and I think he’s getting a little tired of it.

And that’s pretty much it — the whole upstairs. We’ll tackle the basement later. There’s some really great stuff to be seen down there, too. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

The Tour (kind of) – Part 1

Picture time!

So imagine for a moment that you’re touring the house with us and the inspector… and the people living in the house are just hanging around in the living room. Slightly awkward, right? Not as awkward as when they walked around with us the first time we saw it, but still… odd. So I don’t have pictures of everything yet, but I have something for you guys to see as a starting point. I’ll be sure to bring my camera to closing and we’ll get more then.

First, a floor plan. So you can see all the places in the house that didn’t make it into the photos.

(Edited to add… as someone (ahem, Dave) pointed out, there’s apparently no door to the downstairs bathroom. Rest assured, we will not be climbing through the window in order to get in there;  the doorway is actually in the wall that is shared by both the pantry and the bathroom. I just forgot to put it in.)

floorplan from memory

The downstairs layout is pretty good; other than blowing out the kitchen in 5 or 10 years, we’ll probably make some cosmetic changes but otherwise leave it well enough alone. The upstairs? It’s a strange layout, and I have big plans. Probably not for several years, but I think we may consider reconfiguring the whole layout to get a master suite up there at some point. Dave might not know that yet.

Now for the fun part: photos!

These are the stairs opposite the front door. For some reason, I didn’t take one of the area by the door itself, but aren’t the stairs pretty? Original wood, all the way up.


(The white on the post is actually glare, not white paint.)

This is one of the original listing images of the living room (you’ll see why the house didn’t get a ton of traffic before we came along… Everything looks tiny and dark, and it’s really not that tiny. The house faces south, so the front rooms aren’t sunshiny, but the side windows are open to the empty part of the lot and light pours in on that side).


Here’s my picture; this is taken from the dining room (which is adjacent):


The guy who looks like a zombie coming for you is Jeff, our inspector. He was amazing — if you’re in the market for an inspector around Chicago, let me know and I’ll send you his contact info (huge thanks to Beth and Brandy, who recommended him!). He made sure to explain the stuff we clearly didn’t understand in layman’s terms, and took a ton of time to walk us through everything he found and what it meant in terms of repair options and general cost. For a couple of total newbies buying an old house, he made the inspection process a lot easier.

On a side note — notice the position of the smoke detector? Play a game in these pictures and spot the smoke detector locations. They’re hilariously bizarre.

But back to the photos. Notice how much bigger the living room looks in the second picture… And why would you have left out that arch? Surely that’s a selling point?

On to the dining/jungle room. (This is another image from the listing.)


I don’t get the glass block; there are two big windows in the house that were at some point replaced with it. Dave and I are in negotiations as to what’s going to happen to it in the long run. (Maybe we can commission Moonie to make us some stained glass?)

At the back of the dining room is a french door that leads to the ktichen. First, the listing image (the french door is directly to the right of the stove at this angle, just out of frame):


The yellow hurts my head.

These are the two that I took:


The fridge is your standard giant white 2-door fridge. It sits just out of frame, on the left of this image. The door that’s open at the back left leads to the mudroom; you can just see the super-awesome, olive green vinyl flooring in there in this picture. The rugs are runners,  and not permanent.


We aren’t sure if that’s parquet flooring or vinyl tiles that look like wood. Neither Dave nor I looked closely enough at the time. But it is nice and light and neutral, which works for now. The counters are formica and fairly unattractive (at least they’re neutral); the cupboards are solid wood, the stove is relatively new, and the fridge and dishwasher are in reasonable shape. We want to get a microwave with a fan/vent for over the stove; there’s room for it (and I’m hoping it will hide the truly weird spot where they didn’t finish the tile up to the cupboard…).

Speaking of the tile, it’s definitely vintage. The grey grout is unfortunate, but the tile’s not terrible. It’s got a kind of quirky, late 50’s/early 60’s motif dotted around randomly. We may replace it in the long run — Dave’s all gung-ho for subway tile; since he’s the cook, I may just go along with that unless I come up with something much cooler.

Going back to the dining room (at least, I think the entrance is from the dining room… little fuzzy on this), there’s a small bedroom off to the side that we are going to make into the library. I considered making it the guest room, but figured no guest would really want to hear us making coffee at the crack of dawn.


It will be cozy with lots of books and our wing back chairs, I think. That’s the same flooring as the kitchen; I think it might be a weird wood/tile hybrid. Makes me wonder what happened to the hardwood…

See the thing in the wall next to the radiator? Prime example of why we’re doing the wiring first. That’s the only electrical outlet in the room.

Next door to this room is the downstairs bath and a pantry that’s currently being used as a coat closet. We’re planning to build in shelving and make it into a real pantry. I don’t have a photo of the soon-to-be-pantry, but here’s the listing image of the bathroom:


The things you can’t tell from the photo:

  1. The shower head was originally installed by an idiot, and it sprays directly at the window. As a result, the window in the shower is totally rotted and has to be replaced, along with (we assume) the better part of that wall.
  2. The green tile accents are amazing — they probably date from the 40’s and have a vaguely deco-ish motif. Tony insists that I can’t save them, so I’m determined to chip them off the wall, clean off the mortar and re-use them. Mostly because he said I couldn’t. But also because I love it.

And last but not least, behold the mudroom:


The door on the right leads out to a flight of steps down to the back yard. There are 3 windows in this relatively small room, so you can see it’s nice and bright. There’s also a tiny built-in closet (basically right behind my back as I took this photo), with this doorknob:


I’m hoping we’ll find some more of those in the basement.

So that’s the tour of the first floor! I’ll put the upstairs tour in a separate post since this is getting a little long.