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A Fancier Faucet – My Shiny New Moen Bathroom Faucet

Bathrooms, Inspiration

The fine folks at Moen must have read about my faucet woes, because they sent me the beautiful 90 Degree Chrome two-handle low arc bathroom faucet to test out! I’ve always purchased cheap faucets, and I’ve always had terrible luck with them – so I couldn’t wait to see what the difference between the bottom shelfers and a Moen faucet were.

First of all… taking it out of the box, you can immediately feel a difference in the materials. The weight of their faucets reminds me of the difference between picking up cheap utensils and picking up a piece of real silver. You feel fancy just holding it. The fittings all feel much more high quality as well. I can see why they get better reviews and have a reputation for lasting much longer.


I live in a much newer house now (no more Victorian, sadly – affordable old houses are much harder to come by here in Durham!) so the crisp, modern look of the 90 Degree Chrome two-handle low arc bathroom faucet works really well. Now I just need a slick black granite sink, like the gorgeous bathroom they show it in!


Installing it was a cinch, and I could really notice a difference in the quality of the parts versus some of the other faucets I’ve installed over the years. Of course, my camera is fighting me tonight so I won’t have shots to show you for a while, but trust me when I say it looks great and makes the rest of the bathroom pale in comparison. Time to redo the sink caulk if I’m going to show off this shiny chrome! Adding new faucets is one of those home improvement upgrades that is both easy to do and high-impact. You don’t need many tools and you certainly don’t need a plumber! If you’ve never installed a faucet you can check out this install videos to see what I mean about easy:

Having installed the Moen faucet, I can definitely see why people swear by them. The chrome is incredibly shiny, the handles have a nice weight and turn on and off smoothly, and the style of the faucet itself – and the way the water arcs out – make me feel like I’m at a fancy spa when I’m in my own bathroom! If you want more product info, you can find it here.

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Tips & Tools

We’ve experienced our fair share of bug infestations over the years between the two houses we’ve owned. In New York, we mostly dealt with less icky (but equally annoying) creatures like ants. Unfortunately in North Carolina the pest concerns are a little more serious

It was required by the mortgage brokers that we get a termite inspection when we bought the house. Being from NY, that was a surprise to us. We had never dealt with termites before. The termite inspector was very thorough. There isn’t a basement but he did a visual inspection of the foundation, and also checked the attic and all of our crawl spaces. Luckily, it came back clean. No termites, and no termite damage. I always keep an eye out though, because they don’t fool around. They can be confused with carpenter ants because they’re similar in size and have wings but it’s easy to spot the difference – carpenter ants have an obvious “waistline”, while termites have a longer cigar shaped body. If you think you have termites, call a pest control service a.s.a.p. They can cause serious damage before you’re even aware of it because they tend to stay underground and dig inside the wood where their destruction is hidden. A regularly scheduled preventative treatment is recommended because an infestation could go easily unnoticed.

A bug we have had up-close experience with is everyone’s favorite pest, the cockroach. So gross. And so common in NC that most people don’t shudder uncontrollably when they see them. That took some getting used to! We found them crawling around the corners of our cabinets when we first moved in to the North Carolina house but thankfully they have since moved on. It took me quite a while to accept that cockroaches were a part of life here and that I had to be vigilant about dog food and cabinet crumbs to keep them at bay. Now that I have young kids in the house, I’d be quick to call a professional exterminator if I ever saw one again. Not a DIY project I’m interested in! They transport dangerous microbes on their body surfaces that can make humans sick, and I would never leave a bait trap any place within toddler reach. Which is everywhere these days. The rule of thumb with cockroaches is… if you see one, you’ve got a zillion.

Fingers crossed that I’ll never have to write a bed bug post… they do have them locally as well. BLECH.

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Reader love


You guys rule. Seriously. After anxiously releasing my big announcement into the blogosphere yesterday I wasn’t sure what the response would be. Here at home we’ve gotten a lot of support. But we’ve also gotten questioning glances and a few folks outright begged us to change our minds.  So I was relieved to see a whole bunch of “congrats” and “I totally understand” in my inbox this morning. We needed that!  And it means a lot coming from people who are also in the trenches right now toiling through their own home improvement projects.

You get me… you really get me! ;)

We loved working on our house, and have no doubts that we’ll do it all over again in someday soon. Hopefully with less electrical and more cash flow. And when we find our next great fixer-upper, you’ll be the first to hear about our plans!

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Steampunk Dream Machine


If I could have any computer in the world, it wouldn’t be the super-slim Macbook Air (although that would be lovely). It’d be this beautiful behomoth named the “Computational Engine” and built by an artist who calls himself Datamancer. Honestly, I could care less how much RAM it has or whether it runs Windows Vista. Just look at it! Doesn’t it make you swoon a little?

Steampunk computer

Beth and Meredith over at House Made turned me on to Steampunk. You can read more about it here if you’re not sure what I’m talking about. I’ve always liked the Victorian-meets-sci-fi style sometimes seen in movies and comic books, but didn’t know what a huge subculture there was! Totally makes me want to modify my computer beyond recognition but for now I think I’ll stick to drooling over this guy’s work.

Check out this and other projects at:  

Also check out Gary’s steampunk sink alcove, another work of art created by one of my favorite housebloggers!

I’ll just file this under “if I win the lottery”….

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A crafter’s dream organizer


Saw this on Unclutterer the other day and could not resist sharing…. it’s the perfect gift for your favorite obsessive-compulsive crafter!

Crafter organizing system

It’s called “The Original Scrapbox”, and is a seriously overblown version of an armoire-office. It even has a little pull-out work table. Ok, so the pricetag is a hefty $1,500… but think of all the fun you could have organizing and reorganizing your supplies in this endless array of labeled drawers!

For more info, check out

My craft room is already pretty organized, so I guess I don’t need a $1,500 armoire…. my $30 IKEA shelves, a hand-me-down dresser and a $10 plastic pegboard do the trick pretty nicely.

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Elmira, NY – A Fingerlakes Victorian Walking Tour


Mark Twain’s Study, Elmira NY

Photo of Mark Twain’s study – found at: 

Yeah, I know – it’s freezing cold up here in New York and no one wants to take a walking tour in January. But this one is well documented online, so you can Victorian-house-peep from the comfort of your own home. One of our blog readers is an Elmiran (is that right?) and clued me in to what an amazing place it is. It’s not very far from us, yet we’ve never toured the town. And I certainly wasn’t aware that Mark Twain spent much of his time there writing books in his study and playing pool!

Tour their website for great photos (including street names, so you can find them yourself if you’re in the area) and information on tours and B&B’s. I am sure it would be well worth a visit, even in the snow.

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Free Salvage Stuff

Tips & Tools

ReHouse NY - Rochester NY salvage shop

I’ve mentioned ReHouse NY before – it’s a great salvage shop located in lovely downtown Ra-cha-cha (or Rochester, New York for you non-locals). It’s a big warehouse with plenty of stuff to dig through, including the usual doors, windows, clawfoots, hardware, and lighting but also featuring some nice antique furniture and little knick knacks. I always find something to bring home when I go. A few of our treasures acquired there include a beautiful matching set of Victorian door hardware for our entryway and a whole truckload of hardwood flooring used to replace some badly damaged boards.

If you haven’t been to a salvage shop yet, you’re totally missing out. You know how it’s super cool to shop the Salvation Army and find unique things that no one else has? Imagine how cool it is when those unique things are for your house, and they are 100+ years old, and you’re doing something good by recycling to boot. Not to mention the thrill of the hunt… you never know what you’ll find. It’s a great source of inspiration even if you don’t have the money to buy just yet.

If you’re itching to explore, or have something on your list to find, you might want to try ReHouse this weekend. On Friday (1/18) they are putting out FREE stuff… probably random free stuff, but you never know when you’ll come across that oddball thing you’ve been searching all over for. Maybe it’s in their free pile! They’re also having a 25% off door sale Friday and Saturday, and with over 1,000 in stock you ought to find something you like. Our kitchen french doors came from a salvage shop – Historic Houseparts, another Rochester favorite – and I have never regretted a single penny spent on them. Their design and patina make the kitchen addition seem like a natural fit.

Just a little FYI in case you’re looking to shop this weekend! Check out their website ( for hours and photos of current stock.

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Welcome, Victorian Home Readers (And sorry for the lack of posts!)


Bay window - Victorian ItalianateMy poor, neglected houseblog. It’s been far too long since I’ve written something insightful or useful for our readers. There was a time when so much was going on around our house that I literally could not keep up! Lately we’re stretching if we bother to change a blown light bulb.  And yet, we’ve made the pages of one of our favorite inspirational magazines – Victorian Homes! We’re subscribers, but our copy hasn’t arrived yet so I’m anxious to see how the article turned out.

In any case, welcome! For those of you new to the blog, a little background. We bought our house, a 2,200 sq. ft. Victorian Italianate built around 1880, a little over 3 years ago. It was our first house and we purchased it somewhat blindly. We were young, and naive, and thankfully had no clue how hard renovating and restoring an old house can be. Teague is a handy guy (who has since started his own construction company) and I’m always up for a challenge. We loved historic houses, and Dirty Gert “spoke to us” the first time we laid eyes on her despite the strong smell of cat urine radiating from her floorboards and the giant bulging holes in the plaster walls. The house is unique and charming, and due to it’s state of neglect at the time of purchase, it was also within our budget.

After closing on the house, we spent our first night having a big huge “holy shit” moment. What had we done? How could we ever bring this house back to life? Where would the money come from? And the energy, and knowledge, and determination it would require? By morning’s light we were feeling better. For the next 3 years, we rushed headlong into project after project after project. The money we used to spend on movie dates and nice dinners (which we no longer had time for) got funneled straight to Home Depot. Our house consumed our lives in every way, for better or worse. It was as if we’d fallen in love… every thought, every extra penny, every ounce of energy went straight to the house.Victorian Italianate house - front view

We have fixed, quite literally, every part of this house – from jacking the basement to replacing the main roof, and everything in between. We did nearly all of the work ourselves, with the help of some very knowledgeable friends and family. We cultivated our DIY spirit here. And now? Well, somehow we ended up with a house that is actually quite lovely. It’s a cozy and creative space that we’re comfortable in. So it’s a lot harder to get motivated these days… one of the reasons our blog is so quiet. What do you do when the Fixer-Upper is all fixed?

Of course, it’s an old house. There is ALWAYS something that can be done, or redone, or upgraded. But until we have something more substantial to write about, I suggest flipping through our archives – you can view posts either by category (left sidebar) or month/year (bottom). The “best of the best” are in our Major Projects section. If you’re the visual type, you can go straight to our Flickr albums to see some pretty impressive transformations.

Some of our other favorite bloggers are mentioned in the article too, so be sure the check them out:
The Devil Queen, 1902 Victorian, The Petch House, This Old Crack House, Casa Decrepit, This Decrepit Victorian, and Victorian Restoration

And once you’re hooked on our madness, head over to – an invaluable (and time-sucking) site with all sorts of community features for house bloggers and readers alike!

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Another use for salvaged clawfoots


Saw this somewhere in the blogosphere and had to share… an innovative company called Reestore out of the UK takes everyday items and gives them new life. The Max sofa is my favorite:

Clawfoot tub as sofa

Old clawfoots are sitting in yards and basements all across Upstate New York. Why not have a refinisher go crazy and alter it into a couch for you? With a decent cushion on the bottom and WAY more pillows, I think it could be comfy. And much more stylish than a bathtub Madonna.

shopping cart chair from reestore

They also have a shopping cart chair if you’re into the industrial look!

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A long overdue post to kickstart the new year


I haven’t written in a horribly long time, and I don’t even have a good excuse. Let’s blame the holidays and a touch of seasonal depression, shall we?

We’re planning quite a few big changes here at Fixer-Upper for 2008, many of which we’ll be sharing with all you blog readers in the near future. Right now, there are a lot of question marks and vague ideas floating around. We’re focusing on narrowing down our next moves.

That said, I think now is a good time to reflect on 2007….

Bathroom remodel, clawfoot side

Last January we were working diligently on our master bathroom. This turned out to be the most expensive project we have taken on… probably because we went overboard adding lots of pretty trim and I just *had* to have a clawfoot tub, complete with high-end chrome fixtures. It came out beautifully and is by far my favorite room in the house, but we put a lot of sweat and blood into that room. Not to mention the stress of shoving past each other each morning in the small downstairs bathroom.

Craft room shelves

After the bathroom was finished, we moved on to the laundry/craft room. We added a closet, some organizational goodies like shelving, and a cool new paint color. It went from a lackluster kitchen (leftover from when the house was a 2-family) to a hobby sanctuary. Martha Stewart would approve.


After that, we took a break. We were completely burned out and broke on top of it. We thought about painting the exterior, but didn’t have the necessary motivation to start something that big. Instead, we stuck to “little” projects. We installed a picket fence which I proceeded to stain white all summer while burning to a crisp. (Never, ever, again. Not by hand anyway!) We finished drywall repairs throughout the upstairs, making all of our walls and ceilings lovely and crumble-free. We carpeted 2 bedrooms, the craft room, and the hallway to cover up worn and paint-spattered (not in a charming way) wood floorboards. We painted three upstairs bedrooms. We built a closet in the master bedroom since normal people like to hang up their clothing in the room they sleep in.

And then? Then, we hit a wall. The biggest we’ve ever hit. There are always ups and downs when you’re remodeling, but this time we lost any and all motivation to work on the house. It was bound to happen. Everything we hated was fixed. Everything embarrassing had been repaired. We were living in a normal – NICE, even – house. After 3 years of very hard work, we had accomplished what we’d set out to do. We resurrected Dirty Gert from years and years of neglect and abuse and turned her into a nice place to live.

So  now we’re been resting on our laurels, remarking now and then about how refreshing it is to have our weekends free and money in the bank.  To have a clean, drywall-dust-free house. To see our friends and family and get back to hobbies we’ve neglected for the past three years. There is always something to be done in an old house, but for now we’re putting our to-do list in a drawer somewhere :)

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